- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Desperate to win back the control of the House lost eight years ago, the Democratic Party has long coveted the seat in Maryland's 8th Congressional District held by Rep. Connie Morella, a moderately liberal Republican first elected in 1986. Despite an overwhelming registration advantage in the district, a succession of Democratic challengers have fallen short in their bids to send the affable 71-year old Mrs. Morella into retirement.

So this year, Gov. Parris Glendening, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper Taylor, and the rest of the state Democratic Party machine that has exercised iron-fisted control in Annapolis for decades, decided to do their part to make Rep. Dick Gephardt speaker of the House in the coming Congress. Mr. Taylor let the cat out of the bag when he said that the Democrats disapprove of the fact that Maryland's eight-member House delegation is evenly split (4-4) between Democrats and Republicans. What the Democrats want to do is move the ratio to 6-2 in their favor by capturing two additional seats held by the Republicans: the 2nd District, relinquished by Rep. Robert Ehrlich in order to run for governor; and the 8th District, represented by Mrs. Morella.

In the hope of ending Mrs. Morella's political career, the General Assembly removed Republican areas from northern Montgomery County and added Democratic ones from northern Prince George's County. As a result of the legislature's handiwork, Mrs. Morella has become one of the most endangered (if not the most endangered) Republican incumbents in the country.

As conservatives, we've had occasion to disagree with Mrs. Morella on certain issues. But she is no kneejerk liberal. In recent years, for example, she has been a consistent supporter of tax cuts, including the one pushed by President Bush and enacted into law last year, and she joined with her fellow Republicans to beat back efforts by Mr. Gephardt and his fellow Democrats to unravel the Bush tax cut. Thanks to Mrs. Morella and her Republican colleagues, Mr. Bush last year signed legislation providing $1.35 trillion in tax relief over the next decade. Also, as chairman of the House Government Reform panel on the District of Columbia, Mrs. Morella has helped maintain home rule for the nation's capital.

Mrs. Morella's Democratic challenger, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., is a liberal ideologue who is firmly ensconced in the left wing of the Democratic Party. Mr. Van Hollen, who defeated Delegate Mark Shriver in a hotly contested primary, boasts of his efforts to increase taxes, especially on tobacco. He is an aggressive advocate of abortion rights and gun-control schemes that would make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns and operate them for their own protection. On foreign policy, he suggests that Mr. Bush is moving too quickly toward war with Iraq.

In sum, Mrs. Morella's quiet, judicious brand of moderate Republicanism is far preferable to the kneejerk liberalism advocated by Mr. Van Hollen. For all of the above reasons and more, The Washington Times endorses Rep. Connie Morella's re-election to Congress in Maryland's 8th District.

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