Gilchrest faces tough re-election battle

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ANNAPOLIS — Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest officially announced yesterday that he will seek re-election in what likely will be the Republican’s toughest run in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

Mr. Gilchrest, 61, would have to win a tough Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Andrew P. Harris of Baltimore County and a general election challenge from at least one of two Democrats.

“We are at a political crossroads in this nation, and the public is looking for political leaders who will ignore partisan attacks and extremism and work for common-sense solutions to our nation’s biggest challenges,” Mr. Gilchrest said. “I believe I can offer the experience and perspective to do just that.”

Mr. Gilchrest’s votes in favor of the Democrat-backed Iraq pullout plan and for congressional voting rights for the District angered Maryland conservatives this year.

The congressman, whose district includes much of the Eastern Shore, has routinely beat his Democratic challengers by more than 30 points and has fended off Republican primary challengers by more than 20 points since he was first elected in 1990.

Mr. Harris, who filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, thinks the incumbent will have a tougher fight this election cycle.

“It’s going to be one of the toughest challenges because his voting record is more liberal than his district,” he said yesterday. “I’m the only one I know who’s filed in the Republican primary. I think I’ve demonstrated I can raise the money it would take to be a significant challenger.”

Two Democrats also have entered the race — Frank M. Kratovil Jr., Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney, and Christopher R. Robinson, who served as chief of staff to Rep. Roy P. Dyson. A general election victory by one of them would return the seat to a Democrat for the first time in 18 years.

“From the discontent I hear — and I have a lot of Republican supporters, a lot of people down here — there is a serious discontent with [Mr. Gilchrest‘s] votes and with his leadership,” Mr. Kratovil said yesterday. “It’s going to be the toughest primary he’s faced.”

Mr. Gilchrest said he is prepared for the challenge.

“We take every election challenge seriously,” he said. “Generally, we use Colin Powell’s concept of overwhelming force. We learned that early on, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”

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