- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr.’s conservative voting record seems tailored to his Republican-leaning district, but he already is facing a challenge from a familiar Republican opponent.

Mr. Kratovil last year defeated Republican Andrew P. Harris by fewer than 3,000 votes - less than 1 percent - securing Maryland’s 1st District for Democrats for the first time in 18 years.

Mr. Harris has already started raising money for a 2010 rematch.

“The 1st District promises to be, again, the exciting rematch, the most exciting race in Maryland in 2010,” said Michael Cain, co-chairman of the political science department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Mr. Kratovil is a self-described conservative Democrat and member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats.

His “no” vote on the House health care bill, “might get him re-elected,” said probation officer John Fitzpatrick, 56, of Chestertown. “It’s just too expensive. Mr. Kratovil is right. It’s just too expensive at this point.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick said that because of Mr. Kratovil’s vote on health care, he’ll vote for him again in 2010. Mr. Fitzpatrick had been disappointed by Mr. Kratovil’s vote for the final stimulus package, which he originally opposed.

“I think that was a big mistake,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “But he redeemed himself with the health care vote.”

Mr. Harris, who serves in the Maryland state Senate, said he plans to take advantage of discontent over Mr. Kratovil’s voting record.

“I think that in 2010 the American people will once again realize that the Republican Party is really the party of fiscal conservatives,” said Mr. Harris, an anesthesiologist. “That district normally, in normal years, favors Republicans and I think in 2010 will return to favoring Republicans.”

Mr. Cain said Mr. Kratovil was helped in last year’s election by high Democratic voter turnout.

“If Democratic voter turnout is only a little depressed in the 1st District, that could be enough to unseat him,” Mr. Cain said. “During midterm elections, the incumbent party typically loses seats. This is a seat that was going to be very difficult to hold.”

Much of the race, Mr. Cain said, comes down to the money candidates are able to raise - and the money they save not fending off opponents in the primary election.

The million-dollar question, Mr. Cain said, is whether Mr. Kratovil’s health care vote will affect his ability to raise money from Democrats.

As of Sept. 30, Mr. Kratovil had more cash on hand, $691,205, than any of his opponents, according to Federal Election Commission filings. His closest fundraising rival, Mr. Harris, had $313,054.

That’s the money that, during a campaign, will pay for candidate name-recognition among voters. But as of now, few Eastern Shore voters seem to be tracking their congressman.

“I’ve heard both good and bad things, but overall I’m happy,” said April Ann Marshall, 62, who owns Twigs and Teacups in Chestertown.

“I did vote for him, but I don’t want it to be an issue in my life,” she said.

“I am excessively happy that there is someone out there taking care of things in the country. … I vote, but for the person.”

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