Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Hard Feelings in the First Congressional District

Posted by Jim Walsh on Friday, February 15, 2008

After two days, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest has finally issued a brief statement admitting defeat and congratulating (sort of) unspecified individuals for their campaign.

From the Baltimore Sun, Thursday, 2/14/08: “Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest has just issued a brief statement on his defeat two days ago in the Republican primary election for the First Congressional District. He did not name state Sen. Andy Harris, who won the GOP nomination after a bitter campaign that also included state Sen. E.J. Pipkin.

“’I would like to congratulate all of the campaigns and their supporters who worked so hard in this election,’ said the 61-year-old Gilchrest, serving his ninth term representing the district that includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel, Howard [sic, Harford] and Baltimore counties. ‘It is a real sacrifice to participate in the political process, and having been through many campaigns, I commend each candidate and their families who made the sacrifice to do so.'”

I realize that political defeat is a bitter pill to swallow, but I think it’s a shame that one of the last memories of Rep. Gilchrest’s distinguished service will be the petty and ungracious behavior he has exhibited since his defeat on Tuesday. There is no mention of, much less congratulation to, State Sen. Andy Harris. Rep. Albert Wynn, who also was defeated on Tuesday, was much more gracious in his concession, noting “As I said last night, this seat does not belong to any one person – it belongs to you.” Apparently Rep. Gilchrest came to believe that this was his seat and always should be.

When running against an incumbent, I think it’s fair game to call the incumbent out on his record. Some media types characterize this as negative campaigning, but what is more characteristic of a healthy democracy than an honest debate over policy (as opposed to personality) issues. If the challenger did not attack the incumbent’s record, they would be written off as “not giving us any good reason to make a change.”

I hope that Republicans can still rally together to hold this seat come November. I still carry thoughts of what might have been had Helen Delich Bentley gotten over her surprise primary defeat and supported Ellen Sauerbrey in 1994.

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