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Volume 16, Issue 43 - October 23 - October 29, 2008
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Letter From the Editor

We’re All Downstream from Maryland’s 1st District

Playing out in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District is a drama so compelling that Shakespeare’s bony fingers must be itching in the crypt for its writing. The bard loved a political story, with upstarts and usurpations driven by ambition and bloodied by hard falls.

It’s a race that involves us all — because we all love a good story with heroes and villains … because we care about Chesapeake Bay, which is the heart of that district … and because Wayne Gilchrest, the Republican who will no longer be representing that district, followed the beat of a different drummer to his political end.

This week’s feature story is not about Gilchrest, who listened to his conscience first and was punished for it. His party tossed him out in a three-way primary, giving the nomination to state senator Andrew Harris, a physician from Baltimore County.

To the drama now unfolding, Gilchrest is prologue. For Gilchrest gave Chesapeake Bay his unfailing support — and even so we couldn’t reach the ambitious restoration goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement signed back in 1983.

So how will we now hold the line against the mounting pressures of our ever-growing population — let alone make progress?

With that question in mind, I interviewed both Harris and his Democratic challenger, Frank Kratovil, the states attorney for Queen Anne’s County. You’ll read their words in this week’s feature story.

Harris or Kratovil: Whoever takes the lead will walk onto a chaotic economic stage for an act set in uncharted territory.

Neither comes armed with federal experience or past connections. Of course neither did Gilchrest, who was a schoolteacher who’d never won an election when he beat Roy Dyson (now a state senator) in 1990.

The story could break either way. In the primary, 77,414 Republicans and 71,115 Democrats voted. With new registration, the parties remain closely balanced at 198,017 Democrats and 192,705 Republicans. Also a factor this time are the 1st district’s 66,800 unaligned voters, along with 3,078 Greens, Independents, Libertarians and Constitutionalists.

Kratovil held a slight edge in late fundraising, but Harris continues to benefit, as he did in the primary, from television ads paid for by the Club for Growth, an advocacy group pushing low taxes and limited government that helped bankroll Gilchrest’s ouster.

Pollsters call it a tight race. Three weeks before Election Day, a Democratic poll put Kratovil above Harris 43 to 41 percent with 16 percent of voters undecided.

Whoever wins, this changing of the guard will be consequential not only for Marylanders in the 1st District but also for Chesapeake Bay, which remains in dire need of representation in Washington. In this race, we’re all downstream from the voters in the 1st.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.