Republicans are holding a unity meeting on Kent Island today. They hope to begin the general election campaign that could win the party a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November. This -- Maryland's First District -- is perhaps the party's best chance in the nation to take a seat away from a Democratic incumbent. Doing that is a rare thing. In the last off-year election a Republican candidate bested a Democratic incumbent in exactly one contest. In the off-year election before that, the GOP won only two such races.
So the wounded Democratic Rep. Roy Dyson is opportunity personified. No wonder the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee is offering a significant amount of money and staff assistance to the party's nominee, Wayne Gilchrest. No wonder the state party chairman, Joyce Terhes, is enthusiastic about the prospects in the First District in the general election.
Mr. Gilchrest came within a handful of votes of defeating Representative Dyson two years ago -- despite having little money or organized support. Last Tuesday he got more votes in the primary than candidates who spent far more money than he. HTC Given money, given real party support, given the fact that since 1988 the integrity issue has been added to the campaign mix in a way beneficial to Mr. Gilchrest -- given all this, it would appear he is the favorite in the race. That is partly because he did his duty in Vietnam, and Representative Dyson didn't, and partly because so many people do not believe the Dyson explanation of how he got out of serving his country.
Incredibly, two First District Republican candidate who lost to Mr. Gilchrest have said they will not support him. Why? Because he is not their kind of Republican. He is not conservative enough. Barry Sullivan, who came in second, seems to be withholding his support from Mr. Gilchrest on the single issue of abortion. Richard Colburn, who came in third in Tuesday's vote counting, says, "I'm a conservative, and to put it nicely, Wayne is a moderate to liberal Republican." This kind of political "purity" has kept the Republicans in the minority in the House of Representatives for 36 years.
We have made clear our own objections to Representative Dyson over recent years. His lack of an ethical compass when it comes to accepting campaign funds and speaking fees from special interests, his lack of candor on his war record, his bizarre office staff arrangements would all justify an endorsement of even a minimally qualified opponent. In the case of Mr. Gilchrest, the Republican opposition is strong and respectable. It would be silly of the party to thrown away this opportunity. Maybe if another well known moderate Republican got involved, Maryland Republicans would get their act together in the First District. We mean the president. We mean George Bush.