- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

STEVENSVILLE, Md. | Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr. embraced victory Tuesday, one week after Election Day, in a very tight Maryland congressional race that ended 18 years of Republican control in the district.

Mr. Kratovil learned he prevailed when Republican state Sen. Andrew P. Harris called him to concede. Mr. Kratovil said the conversation, which lasted less than a minute, was “cordial.”

The Associated Press on Friday called the 1st District race for Mr. Kratovil, but the victor waited for about 4,800 provisional ballots to be counted Monday and to hear from Mr. Harris before declaring victory.

Mr. Kratovil, the state’s attorney for Queen Anne’s County, said he didn’t find the weeklong wait difficult, noting that he is used to waiting for juries to reach verdicts in his work as a prosecutor.

He said he would focus on trying to improve the economy, especially in seeking relief for the middle class.

“Clearly, the economy is the big issue,” he said in an interview at his Stevensville campaign office.

He also said he hoped congressional leaders would assign him to a committee dealing with agricultural, law enforcement or transportation issues.

Mr. Kratovil had an election-night lead of 915 votes, which rose to 2,003 votes after the first group of absentee ballots was counted Friday. He then gained about 150 votes from the provisional ballots. While additional absentee ballots will be counted Friday, they are not expected to change the outcome.

The battle for incumbent Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest’s seat was one of the most closely watched congressional races in Maryland in years.

The district has slightly more Democratic than Republican registered voters, but Mr. Gilchrest has represented it for 18 years. It covers a large area, including the entire Eastern Shore, as well as portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties.

Mr. Gilchrest, a moderate Republican, lost February’s contentious five-way primary race to Mr. Harris, one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly.

Mr. Gilchrest crossed party lines to endorse Mr. Kratovil, who was helped by an unusually strong showing by a Libertarian Party candidate, Richard Davis. Mr. Davis, who expressed positions that were closer to Mr. Harris’ stands than Mr. Kratovil’s, received more than 8,600 votes.

Mr. Kratovil also received considerable help from precincts on the lower shore composed largely of black voters. For example, in four precincts in Princess Anne, Mr. Kratovil received 1,869 votes, compared with 602 for Mr. Harris.

Maryland Democrats will now control seven of the state’s eight congressional seats.

Edward Lee, president of the Worcester County branch of the NAACP, said he believed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama’s candidacy gave Mr. Kratovil a significant boost, although Mr. Kratovil also received strong support from the state and national Democratic Party.

“Had Obama … not been on that ticket, we would not have seen the turnout that took place here on the lower shore,” Mr. Lee said. “Obama’s coattails were long enough to bring him across.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put about $1.8 million into helping Mr. Kratovil.

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