Harris unseats Kratovil in Maryland U.S. House race; Mikulski reelected

Residents in the District, Maryland and Virginia turned out Tuesday to choose their elected officials.
By Ben Pershing and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 12:10 AM

A Republican challenger ousted a first-term House Democrat from the Eastern Shore in a closely watched congressional race Tuesday, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) and seven House incumbents from Maryland rolled to reelection.

In a rematch of their contest two years ago, state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R) soundly beat Rep. Frank M. Kratovil Jr. (D) in the 1st Congressional District.

The Democrat had defeated the Republican in 2008 by fewer than 3,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point, after Harris ousted longtime Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in the Republican primary. Gilchrest, a self-described moderate, subsequently endorsed Kratovil in that election and again this year.

Because the 2008 squeaker made Kratovil an obvious target, outside groups poured millions of dollars into the district this fall for television advertising.

Kratovil, 42, a former local prosecutor, depicted himself as a Democrat unafraid to break ranks with his party in Washington. He supported President Obama's economic stimulus package but voted against his health-reform legislation.

Kratovil voted for a controversial Democratic "cap-and-trade" climate change bill, saying the measure would help local agriculture. He also emphasized that he had opposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a much-debated bank bailout, enacted in 2008 before he took office.

Harris, 53, an anesthesiologist who has served in the state Senate since 1999, stressed his conservative views. He pledged to contain taxes and spending, repeal the health-care law and support measures to help small businesses. Harris said he wants to restore "balance" to Washington after two years of Democratic dominance.

Harris focused on tying Kratovil to Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the broader Democratic agenda, seeking to portray the incumbent as out of step in a district in which the president is relatively unpopular.

Kratovil replied that Harris was too partisan for a district with a history of political moderation. The 1st District encompasses the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

On Tuesday at the Maryland City-Russett Library, Pat Kirkpatrick, 66, said she usually sides with Democrats but voted reluctantly for the incumbent.

"Kratovil is so pro-Pelosi in everything he does," she said. "And I'm not a fan of hers." But Kirkpatrick said she was willing to give him another chance.

John Jackson, 41, said he usually supports Democrats but voted this time for Harris. Jackson said he doesn't believe in "kicking [Democrats] out of office for the sake of kicking them out." But he went with Harris after a "fundamental gut check."

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