- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

The National Rifle Association has endorsed a challenger over six-term Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in Maryland's 1st Congressional District primary race Sept. 10, saying gun rights have never been a priority for the incumbent.
In a letter, NRA Political Victory Fund Chairman Chris W. Cox said the gun rights organization is backing David Fischer because of his "outstanding support for the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Americans in stark contrast [with] the incumbent, [who] has rarely cast a vote in favor of the rights of many gun owners and shooting sportsmen in the 1st District."
Mr. Cox declined to detail how far the NRA would go to help the first-time candidate unseat the incumbent, but he said Tuesday that the NRA will notify its members that "there is a clear choice in this race, and it's David Fischer."
Mr. Fischer is a Glen Burnie-based lawyer and has represented Vietnam veteran Donald G. Arnold in his battle to regain his gun permit, which the state denied him because of a conviction more than 30 years ago.
Mr. Fischer said he believes he can parlay endorsements by the NRA and other conservative groups into a message that will drive right-leaning Republicans from Anne Arundel County, the northern Baltimore suburbs and the Eastern Shore to the polls and propel him to victory in the Sept. 10 primary and Nov. 5 election.
His chances ride on whether he can convince primary voters that Mr. Gilchrest an Eastern Shore resident, Vietnam veteran, former house painter and high school civics teacher has views and votes that are out of step with their values.
"Most voters on the western shore have never looked at Wayne's record," Mr. Fischer said. His "only priority the last 12 years has been environmental causes; my priorities are rebuilding national security and defense and cutting taxes and wasteful government spending."
To make sure voters get the message, Mr. Fischer said he'll put as much as $300,000 of his own into the campaign. His supporters are going door-to-door, including to houses with Gilchrest yard signs, telling residents that Mr. Gilchrest is less conservative than they might think and that Mr. Fischer's views are a better match.
In ads and on the stump, Mr. Fischer has criticized Mr. Gilchrest for backing Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the 2000 Republican presidential primary. He also takes the incumbent to task for supporting campaign finance reforms that would limit spending by many conservative interest groups, such as the NRA, without restricting the manpower advantages of liberal organizations such as labor unions and the NAACP.
In a full-page ad that ran in 1st District newspapers last month, the challenger says Republican voters are dismayed that Mr. Gilchrest "sided with the liberal Clinton administration on gun control, abortion, quotas, gay adoption, flag-burning and private-property rights."
Gilchrest spokesman Tony Caligiuri said the congressman's record is "moderate," like his sprawling Chesapeake Bay-centered district.
"The congressman is a member of the NRA and a gun owner. He hunts. He is not some kind of gun-control freak, and he knows there's more to the NRA like the good work they do in gun education," Mr. Caligiuri said, adding that the congressman's approval rating is 81 percent on the Eastern Shore and in the high 70s districtwide.
Mr. Gilchrest supports abortion rights but has voted to ban partial-birth abortion and against federal funding for abortions.
He also co-sponsored a bill to repeal the estate tax and has voted to repeal it every time except for the one vote he missed.
Mr. Gilchrest's war chest held almost $151,000 at the end of June, according to reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Although fund-raising letters suggest he has stepped up his efforts to raise cash in response to Mr. Fischer's challenge, Mr. Gilchrest is still running a "low-key" campaign that Mr. Caligiuri said appeals to his constituents.

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