- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — A Republican state senator says he is considering a primary challenge against Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, based upon the growing disillusionment with Mr. Gilchrest within the party.

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, is touring Mr. Gilchrest’s district while he considers a run next year against the 16-year incumbent.

Mr. Harris said it was “no secret” that he was making the rounds at party fundraisers while deciding whether to run against Mr. Gilchrest, but said he needs to hear from the state’s top Republicans before deciding to run.

“The dissent may have reached a critical level,” Mr. Harris said earlier this week at a Republican fundraiser in Anne Arundel County.

Many Republicans say Mr. Gilchrest’s support of the Democrat-backed Iraq war resolution in March and District of Columbia voting rights are the latest in a series of votes that have alienated him from the Republican base.

“People are really sick and tired of him,” said Joan Harris, a Republican activist in Mr. Gilchrest’s district and vice president of Citizens for Jessica’s Law in Maryland, an organization that advocates tougher sex-offender laws.

Mr. Gilchrest was one of two Republican congressmen to vote with the Democrats to set a troop-withdrawal date in Iraq. The other was Walter B. Jones of North Carolina.

“That one vote has generated more anti-Gilchrest letters to the editor than all the other votes since he’s been in Congress,” said state Sen. Richard F. Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican who ran against Mr. Gilchrest in 2004.

“He has a history of legislation that he’s voted for and those votes were liberal,” Mr. Colburn said. “He’s probably more representative of the area where he came from in New Jersey than he is of the Eastern Shore.”

Mr. Gilchrest has controlled the 1st Congressional District since he beat former Democratic Rep. Roy Dyson — now a state senator — in 1990.

Mr. Gilchrest fended off Republican challengers in 2002 and 2004, and ran unopposed last year.

Glen Burnie lawyer David Fischer ran against Mr. Gilchrest in the 2002 primary election and lost by a 24-point margin, based largely on his legal work defending suspected sex offenders and a series of advertisements.

Mr. Colburn lost to Mr. Gilchrest in 2004 by 22 points.

Mr. Gilchrest has frequently sided with environmentalists during his tenure, testified against a proposal by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, to legalize slot machines in 2004, and has voted in support of abortion and flag burning.

His supporters say he represents a unique district that is not known for being overly partisan.

“Congressman Gilchrest is a known quantity,” said Tony Caligiuri, Mr. Gilchrest’s chief of staff. “He has been challenged in very aggressive primaries and very aggressive general [elections] and has always come out with a large margin of victory.”

But some Republicans think the time is right for a push to unseat Mr. Gilchrest.

“The First Congressional District is an exceedingly conservative district, where the constituents expect their congressman to vote conservative,” Mr. Harris said.

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