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The Congressional Primaries


As we have witnessed in recent years, incumbency is no guarantee of effectiveness on Capitol Hill. Maryland has its share of able legislators but it has its weak links, too. Redrawn district lines give voters this year a superb chance to put incumbents under an intense public microscope and to reject those who don't pass muster.

There will be at least one new voice in Congress -- in the 4th District, a newly drawn majority-black district. And, come January, at least one member of the current delegation will be gone, since the 1st District has thrown together two incumbents, Democrat Tom McMillen and Republican Wayne Gilchrest.

In our view, another district also needs a change. Rep. Beverly Byron of the 6th District (Western Maryland plus Carroll County and much of Howard County) faces an opponent who provides a credible alternative. Mrs. Byron, who won her husband's seat when he died in 1978, has made a name for herself as a conservative Democrat -- on some issues more conservative, we suspect, than the majority of her constituents. She has specialized in military matters and has wielded influence on the Armed Services Committee. Now that defense is no longer the pork barrel it once was, her intense focus on military affairs, sometimes to the neglect of other issues important to the state, becomes a less valuable asset.

This year, Mrs. Byron is opposed by Del. Thomas Hattery, a legislator representing Frederick and Carroll counties. Mr. Hattery has been a bright light during his 10 years in the General Assembly. A part-time farmer who also has interest in a publishing company, he is acquainted both with the agricultural roots of the 6th District as well as the new entrepreneurial influences creeping out from Baltimore and Washington.

Unlike some of his more provincial colleagues Mr. Hattery has had the vision to support issues important to metropolitan Baltimore, a quality which suggests he can ably represent Maryland on the national level. To cite one important distinction between him and Mrs. Byron, he is pro-choice; she is not. Western Marylanders have been represented by Byrons as long as they can remember. We believe it's time for fresh blood in the 6th.

Unfortunately for 6th District Republican voters, the field is weak. Of the three candidates, Michael Downey, a Thurmont businessman and cattle farmer, offers the most reasonable choice.

For 1st District Republicans, we endorse Mr. Gilchrest. In his first term, he has had to adjust to Capitol Hill. But Mr. Gilchrest has retained the integrity that drew us to him in his successful challenge to former Rep. Roy Dyson.

In the Democratic primary, Mr. McMillen's new district has little .. overlap with his current territory. The congressman has disappointed us in several areas -- the politics of redistricting illustrated his difficulties in getting along with the rest of the delegation. But he is intelligent and has developed valuable expertise in technology issues. Although one of his opponents, Del. John Astle of Annapolis, can make a compelling case for 1st District voters to send him to Washington, we feel Mr. McMillen deserves his party's nomination.

In the 2nd, Republican Helen Bentley has been a forceful advocate for her district. She gets our endorsement. Among the five Democrats, we favor Michael C. Hickey Jr., a Harford County lawyer with intelligent and studied positions on issues.

In the 3rd District, the incumbent, Democrat Ben Cardin, has earned our support for his effective work in the House. Among the seven Republican challengers, the best qualified is William T. S. Bricker, a well-rounded veteran of state government now practicing law in Towson.

Maryland's new 4th District, covering Prince George's County and part of Montgomery County, has no incumbent, but the large Democratic field contains familiar names, including Prince George's County State's Attorney Alexander Williams, state Sen. Albert P. Wynn and County Councilwoman Hilda R. Pemberton. We recommend Mr. Williams, who has demonstrated a willingness to stand by principles even when it hasn't made him popular.

In the 4th District Republican primary, we endorse Michele Dyson, a businesswoman from Montgomery County who founded a computer information company and has made black business development the focus of her campaign.

In the 5th District, which covers portions of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties along with Southern Maryland, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer has our solid endorsement. He has been a powerful advocate for Maryland. On the Republican side, Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., an Upper Marlboro real estate broker with a well-known family name, is the most credible candidate.

Democrat Kweisi Mfume has provided intelligent representation for the 7th District; Kenneth Kondner is the lone GOP candidate.

And in Montgomery County, 8th District Rep. Constance Morella has no opponents in the Republican primary. On the Democratic side, we recommend James Walker, a builder with progressive ideas who ran against her two years ago.

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