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New Lawmaker Vows to Reflect 1st District Views

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By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 2009

After a bitterly fought election, a post-election week of excruciating uncertainty and a nail-biter of a victory, Maryland's newest Democratic congressman, Frank M. Kratovil Jr., has had little time to rest on his laurels. There have been orientation meetings and policy discussions, not to mention preparations for Tuesday, when he'll be sworn in.

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But there will be little respite in the next two years, experts say, if Kratovil intends to keep his new job as the representative of Maryland's 1st Congressional District. Because of his narrow victory margin -- 2,852 votes, less than 1 percent of the total -- his opponent has already begun preparations for a rematch in 2010.

Kratovil, though, says his mind is not on 2010 but on the job ahead.

"I'm not focused on that right now," he said, rattling off items from his packed schedule since November.

For the past few weeks, he has shuttled between his home on the Eastern Shore and Capitol Hill. He has closed up shop at his old office as state's attorney in Queen Anne's County. He has interviewed and hired much of his new congressional staff.

He has also traveled throughout the 1st District, meeting with people he will represent. So far, he has talked to the leaders of nine of the 12 counties in the district, which encompasses the entire Eastern Shore and portions of several counties on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay, including Anne Arundel.

In recent days, Kratovil and his staff have focused mostly on lobbying for him to be assigned to three key House committees: Agriculture (because of the rural nature of the 1st District), Transportation (because of the Bay Bridge and coming expansion as a result of military base relocations) and Armed Services (because of the two major bases in the area, Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground). Committee assignments, which are determined by party leadership, will play a large role in what Kratovil has to show for his efforts at the end of his two-year term.

Some lifestyle choices have also been made, Kratovil said. He will not be renting a place in the District, choosing instead to commute from his Eastern Shore home in Stevensville.

"Part of it is about family, trying to maintain a normal existence, but another part is to have a balanced perspective," he said. "I want to be in contact with the people in my district, to bring their point of view to Congress."

As for his former opponent, state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County), a repeat run in 2010 is an option he is keeping on the table. He has kept much of his fundraising apparatus up and running and has tentatively planned a March fundraiser for a 2010 congressional race.

"The success Democrats had in 2008 will not be repeated in 2010," Harris said. "This year's race was determined almost entirely by outside forces. . . . And in 2010, Kratovil will have to run on a record, not just promises anymore."

But for now, Harris will be pursuing state-level office. His state Senate seat will also be on the ballot in 2010, and he has scheduled a fundraiser for that race for Wednesday -- a $100-per-ticket event at Columbus Gardens in Baltimore.


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