It seemed an unlikely place to find support for a Maryland politician, but there it was on the editorial page of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette.
Headlined "A Project for Huck," the editorial addressed the decision of 77-year-old Huck Boyd to seek reelection as Kansas' Republican national committeeman and suggested he "look into a complaint that came in the mail last week from a Republican who is running for Congress in the 6th District of Maryland . . . an attorney named Robin Ficker."
Ficker, Montgomery County's tireless campaigner, energetic signature gatherer and indefatigable letter writer, was at it again. This time, his letter complaining of the GOP's failure to support his campaign against incumbent Democratic representative Beverly B. Byron had gone to 4,500 newspapers across the U.S.
For Ficker, a former one-term state legislator, it has been considerably harder finding support close to home.
His race against the popular Byron is largely a solo quest, like many of his political endeavors. It is financed almost entirely from his own pocket and dependent more on his own considerable energy than the aid of his fellow Republicans.
Even with those handicaps, Ficker has not gone unnoticed by Byron, a potent vote-getter now seeking a fourth term in the Western Maryland seat formerly held by her late husband.
Though the Byron name is almost magic in the 6th Congressional District -- her late husband's parents both held the seat during the 1940's -- she is taking nothing for granted. "We're running a very aggressive, positive campaign, the same as we've always done," said Byron, who has never polled less than 70 percent of the vote in a district which traditionally votes Republican in statewide and presidential elections.
Byron's politics, moderate to conservative on most issues with a particularly strong pro-defense slant, reflect a primarily rural district which remains a conservative stronghold despite the addition of some liberal areas in Potomac and Columbia during the 1982 congressional reapportionment.
Speaking of Byron's cross-party appeal to Republicans, one GOP member of the state legislature who asked not to be named said: "No one in the Republican Party seems to have a problem with Beverly Byron. She's the queen of the boll weevils."
But state Republican chairman Allan Levey, noting that President Reagan won 59 percent of the vote in the 6th District in 1980, said he "would not be surprised to see Robin do better than people expect. There isn't a harder worker in the world than Robin Ficker. He turns some people on and some off, but when people go to the polls, everyone knows who he is."
Byron, whose conservatism puts her out of step with most Democrats in the Maryland delegation, dismisses the likelihood of a Reagan coattail effect. Sometimes criticized as a closet Republican, Byron notes that she has supported both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Ficker has been campaigning in his usual relentless style, despite the lack of visible support. He has been spurned by the national Republican congressional committee -- his fundraising efforts were dismissed as "not even viable for a city council race" by a committee spokesman. And he is regarded as a pariah by many state Republicans.
In Annapolis, where he served one term from 1979 through 1982, Ficker was often accused of being a publicity hound who would introduce bills -- such as one to change the state sport to running -- merely to capture the attention of the press. In more than one session, he introduced dozens of fruitless amendments to the budget bill.
"He's kind of like the man who came to dinner; he's there and what can you say," said state Sen. Howard A. Denis (R-Montgomery).
Ficker dismisses criticism by his party colleagues. "I'm an independent thinker," he says.
Undeterred by three previous losses when his home was in the 8th District -- once as an independent, once as a Democrat, and once as a Republican -- Ficker has been busy lambasting fellow Republicans for their "defeatism" and verbally slashing his opponent.
"Byron scares us" scream the billboards which Ficker has peppered throughout the district and which do not mention his own name.
And as a counterpoint to his charge that Byron has lost touch with the voters in her district, which includes all of Western Maryland, Frederick and Carroll counties and parts of Montgomery and Howard, Ficker has pledged to shake 100,000 hands in his campaign, and claims to be nearing his goal.
All of that has left Byron somewhat on the defensive.
It is the night of Sept. 17, and outside St. Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac, the green and white sign (Ficker colors) advertises "the debate of the decade."
"The millenium," corrects Blair Lee IV in a sardonic commentary on Ficker's sign. Lee, the former lobbyist for Montgomery County Executive Charles Gilchrist who is managing Byron's campaign, has promised Ficker a rematch "if he behaves."
For an hour and a half Ficker hammers Byron for not doing more to prevent the closing of the Fairchild plant in Hagerstown, for not getting the National Freeway near Cumberland completed, for her "junkets" as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, for voting to cut Social Security cost of living increases, for her attendance record and for taking money from political action committees.
Byron, parrying from start to finish, remains calm throughout as she defends her foreign trips ("I don't know many people who would go to Lebanon in a war situation"), her efforts on behalf of Fairchild ("I held an economic summit in Washington County"), and her attendance ("I missed 16 votes while I was in Lebanon and I'd miss those votes again because I think the work I was doing was extremely important").
Obviously stung by the virulence of Ficker's attacks upon her, Byron says she feels compelled to answer his charges even at the risk of appearing defensive.
"It's not the highest plane for a campaign," she says of her opponent's tactics. "I drive home every night and I go by all his billboards. I don't know of any other campaign when a candidate has spent that amount of money and not mentioned his own name."
"I've been out in the district on a regular basis and in Washington doing my job," she adds, an oblique reference to Ficker's charge in the debate that Byron "spent her summer in her condominium collecting PAC money from cronies."
Both campaigns are relatively low-budget. Byron expects to spend slightly in excess of $100,000. Traditionally, about half of her funds have come from political action committees (PACs), primarily business organizations. Ficker says he will spend about $75,000, almost all of which he says is his own money.
Ficker says his own poll last June disputes the Republican congressional committee's estimate that the race is too lopsided to make an investment.
Asked if he expects to win after losing congressional races on three previous outings, Ficker replies: "Yup. . . . Abraham Lincoln didn't get elected the first time either."