- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — Republican voters decide today whether to re-elect nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, ending one of the competitive races in recent history for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Mr. Gilchrest faces strong challenges from two Maryland senators, Andrew P. Harris and E.J. Pipkin, who have been critical of his vote with House Democrats to pull troops out of Iraq.

“The only reason Wayne’s in trouble is because of his recent votes,” said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore Republican and a Harris supporter. “People in the district have been so uncomfortable with him because of his recent votes on Iraq. And pro-life voters have always been uncomfortable with him.”

Opposing campaigns have called each other “dishonest” and “negative.” They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television and radio advertising — a large sum in the largely rural, eastern Maryland district where candidates typically spend less money than in other parts of the state.

National political action committees have aired television ads on behalf of their chosen picks — from the humorous to the ominous.

Mr. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican and a multimillionaire former Wall Street investor, has promised throughout the campaign to match the amount spent by one conservative PAC.

Mr. Gilchrest has endorsements from President Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republican congressional colleagues.

Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele promised to help raise money for any Republican candidate but “urged” voters to pick Mr. Gilchrest.

He is also backed by the Baltimore Sun and the Easton Star-Democrat.

Mr. Harris, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, had support from former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., many of his State House colleagues and conservative activists in the district.

Mr. Pipkin has the backing of several police unions and state Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick County Republican.

Gilchrest staffers say the Republican nomination for president likely going to Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a plus for their candidate.

“It is widely known fact that McCain and Gilchrest are good friends,” said Tony Caligiuri, Mr. Gilchrest’s chief of staff. “Gilchrest is a mainstream Republican candidate that is well suited to run for the general election.”

There also are four Democrats running today in the mostly Republican district — Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Frank M. Kratovil Jr. leads the pack in money and political endorsements, followed by Eastern Shore Attorney Christopher R. Robinson, Harford County lawyer Joseph Werner, and Steve Harper, a former diplomat living in Anne Arundel County.

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