Rep. Newton I. Steers (R-Md.) was in his home precinct in Bethesda yesterday but his mind was on Hungary: Hungarian food, Hungarian costumes, and most of all, Hungarian-born voters, who have banded together to join his most enthusiastic supporters.
About 150 persons donated $15 each to the Steers campaign to feast on stuffed cabbage and Korozott, or Hungarian finger-sandwiches at the Goodview Street home of William and Eva June Devries, and most, like the Devries, were there to applaud Steers as a champion of Hungarian causes.
"The Hungarians have fallen in love with Steers," said Rosanne Szabados, who is working as campaign fundraiser for Steers. "They think he's absolutely darling."
Steers endeared himself to the estimated 1,000 Hungarian-born residents in Montgomery County by co-sponsoring a bill last November to keep St. Stephen's crown - the Hungarian national treasure - in the United States. His measurse died in committee and the crown was returned, but his local supporters appreciated the effort.
"It was a lost cause, but he was an ally and did what he could," said Istvan Gereben, the national cochairman of the Hungarian National Freedom Federation. "We know he's concerned with human rights and with helping our people get out of the county."
Steers, who said he first became allied with local Hungarian groups when he attended a picnic for the Hungarian National Federation during his 1976 campaign, was full of praise for the group.
"One thing I've noticed about these people is that they appreciate some of the basic freedoms far more than natural-born Americans," Steers said. "We take for granted what they've fought for and suffered without."
Steers was evidently in need of the nourishment the Hungarians provided. The reception late yesterday afternoon was his fourth formal appearance of the day, after four Saturday night and a week of rising at 7 a.m. to wave at commuters.
"It's been hard for Steers to campaign because Congress is still in session, so we have to really work on the weeken's," said David O'Bryon, Steer's campaign chairman.
Nevertheless, Steers, supporters exuded confidence yesterday. "I think (Mike) Barnes gave us his best shots during the past ten days," said State Sen. Howard Denis, referring to Steer's Democratic opponent. "He threw out everything he had and it had no effect. I don't think he can stop us at this point."