- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris yesterday defeated nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest to win the 1st Congressional District seat in the Maryland Republican primary.

With 272 of 277 precincts reporting, Mr. Gilchrest had 33 percent of the votes, according to the Associated Press. Mr. Harris had 43 percent and state Sen. E.J. Pipkin had 21 percent.

“The voters of the first district embraced my conservative message, and that is why we were victorious tonight,” Mr. Harris said in his victory speech. “I look forward to debating the issues facing our country with my Democratic opponent. Voters will see a clear difference in my philosophy of smaller government, lower taxes, verses the Democrats’ philosophy of higher taxes and bigger more intrusive government.”

Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Frank M. Kratovil Jr. defeated three challengers in the Democratic primary that also included Cambridge lawyer Christopher R. Robinson, Harford County lawyer Joseph Werner, and Steve Harper, a former diplomat living in Anne Arundel County.

Mr. Kratovil, who led party candidates in campaign money and political endorsements, had 40 percent of the vote with 272 of 277 precincts reporting. His closest competitor, Mr. Robinson, had 31 percent.

Poll hours were extended 90 minutes, until 9:30 p.m., because of the winter storm that resulted in slick roads and sidewalks. Updated results can be found at www.elections.state.md.us/index.html. However, the votes taken after 8 p.m. are considered provisional and will not be counted until Tuesday.

“It was a difficult campaign. It was cacophony of chaos that confused the voters,” said Mr. Gilchrest.

The well-financed Republican primary, which started in the summer, at times became personal, with opposing campaigns calling one another “dishonest” and “negative.”

Mr. Harris, Baltimore and Harford counties, and Mr. Pipkin, Eastern Shore, accused Mr. Gilchrest of being soft on illegal aliens and criticized him for his vote with House Democrats to pull troops out of Iraq.

Mr. Pipken had an ad featuring Mr. Gilchrest, Mr. Harris and Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, wearing sombreros and describing them as the “Three Amigos.”

Voters in the largely rural district whose economy includes agriculture, commercial seafood and tourism were concerned about the influx of illegal aliens taking jobs in those industries.

Tom Batchelor, an Easton architect, voted for Mr. Gilchrest. “Most of the [candidates] I voted for are incumbents and haven’t given me problems to vote against them,” he said.

Earl Lewin, 74, of Chestertown and a retired video producer, also said he voted for Mr. Gilchrest.

“He’s a guy you can get on the phone if you have a problem,” he said. “It gives you a real connection with government.”

The race also was one of the most expensive in the history of the Republican-heavy district.

More than $1.5 million was raised in recent months, campaign officials said, and the total was expected to exceed $4 million.

The money went to TV, radio and print campaigns throughout much of the state, though the district encompasses only the Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil and Harford counties.

Some of the ads were sponsored by national political action committees. The Club for Growth, an anti-tax group, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Mr. Harris.

Final-days efforts included Harris campaign ads showing voters calling Mr. Gilchrest, 63, a taxer and spender, followed by a brief endorsement by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Mr. Pipkin ran ads countering Harris arguments that he and Mr. Gilchrest are “two liberal peas in a pod.”

Scott Milligan, 37, of Chestertown and a high school teacher, voted for Mr. Pipken.

“I just thought it was time for a change there,” said Mr. Milligan, adding that he was swayed by a Pipken commercial denying accusations made by Mr. Harris.

Even Mr. Gilchrest’s son, Kevin, got involved, with a YouTube mockery of Mr. Harris and Mr. O’Malley.

Mr. Gilchrest had endorsements from President Bush and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

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

Mr. Harris, an anesthesiologist, also had support from many of his State House colleagues and conservative activists in the district. Mr. Pipkin had the backing of several police unions and state Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick County Republican.

Mr. Gilchrest had won other close races. He defeated his last primary challenger, state Sen. Richard T. Colburn, by 9,000 votes in 2004.

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