Democrat Kratovil Claims Victory in Close Md. Race

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr. edged out Republican state Sen. Andrew P. Harris yesterday to win Maryland's 1st Congressional District, becoming the first member of his party to represent the district in 18 years.

Kratovil claimed victory yesterday after Harris called him and conceded. Results in the close election had been delayed as absentee ballots were counted.

Kratovil took 49 percent of the vote over Harris's 48 percent, with 2,154 votes separating the two.

In an interview, Kratovil, who is the Queen Anne's County state's attorney, said he was looking forward to his new role and plans to focus on the economy and energy issues.

"The bailout isn't doing what it should be doing and we have to figure out if the money is directed where it needs to go," he said. "Gas prices may have gone down, but we cannot let our feelings subside about energy."

At a news conference in Salisbury, Harris, an anesthesiologist who represents Baltimore County in the state legislature, told reporters that he congratulated Kratovil on his victory. "We vigorously debated many issues throughout this campaign, but now it's time for us to all come together as Americans united to solve the many serious problems facing this country," he said.

Voters in the 1st District, which straddles the Chesapeake Bay and includes the Eastern Shore and portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties, generally back Republicans in presidential and gubernatorial elections, even though Democrats hold a slight edge in voter registration.

Kratovil's win strengthens the Democrats' tight hold on political power in Maryland and leaves only Western Maryland's 6th District in GOP hands, with veteran Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.

"The fact that it was so close was a testament to the competitiveness in this district," said Adam Hoffman, a political science professor at Salisbury University. "If the Democrats were going to take this district, this was the time to do it."

Hoffman said many factors fell into place for Kratovil to win, including Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, the economic downturn and Libertarian candidate Richard James Davis's 8,632 votes, which probably siphoned some of Harris's support.

Kratovil's campaign also received a boost in September when incumbent Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, whom Harris defeated in the February GOP primary, crossed party lines to endorse the Democrat. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Gilchrest's endorsement and $2 million from the committee to pay for television advertising helped propel Kratovil to victory.

"We were convinced that if we got the message of Frank Kratovil out, it would lead to a win," Van Hollen said. "Frank Kratovil was able to gain the political middle ground."

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