Hoping that Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin may be vulnerable in his newly redrawn 3rd District, a squad of seven Republicans has lined up for the right to take Mr. Cardin on in the 1992 general election.
But Mr. Cardin, who faces an unknown Democratic challenger in the March 3 primary, has the advantage of a three-term incumbency, ample funds and a solid voter base in Pikesville. He has spent much of the campaign trying to get himself known in the new portions of his district.
In the fight over redistricting, Mr. Cardin was able to keep much of his 3rd District, which still curls around the northern edge of Baltimore, through Pikesville in Baltimore County and out to Columbia in Howard County.
The new territory includes the Perry Hall and Parkville areas of Baltimore County, as well as the northern tip of Anne Arundel County.
Republicans, noting that the Parkville and Perry Hall areas were previously in the camp of 2nd District Republican Rep. Helen D. Bentley, believe that one of their number can mount a serious challenge to Mr. Cardin in the fall.
But six of the seven Republicans registered for the primary have never run for Congress, and four are making their first try for any political office.
The best known GOP challenger is Towson lawyer William T. S. Bricker, 62, a former state motor vehicle administrator and lifelong Democrat until he switched parties two years ago.
The group also includes a welder, two engineers, a stockbroker, restaurant owner and a self-employed salesman/public relations man.
"The bottom line is a serious candidate has name recognition and money," said one county GOP leader. "In those terms, we don't have a serious candidate."
Mr. Cardin said he doesn't think about his opposition during an election but is focusing on his own campaign and his own accomplishments.
The 48-year-old former Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates has raised nearly $300,000 and is continuing his fund-raising efforts.
He said rejuvenating the economy and crafting a plan to improve health care coverage are his two main issues this year. Mr. Cardin said he'd like to see money cut from defense put into improving the nation's infrastructure -- roads, bridges and mass transportation.
Mr. Cardin also said he is drafting a national health care bill that would have the federal government provide the money but leave it up to each state to decide how it's spent.
"It can be done," Mr. Cardin said of his plan, which he expects to introduce into Congress later this month. "It can be done now. And it would significantly reduce the crisis that we have as far as cost, coverage and quality."
Mr. Cardin's Democratic challenger in the primary is Carl A. Mueller, a Towson bicycle shop owner. Mr. Mueller, 48, who lives in Roland Park, said he's making his first run for public office because he is disappointed with incumbents like Mr. Cardin.
"It doesn't seem like anybody down in Washington is getting anything done," Mr. Mueller said. "It just seems like bickering back and forth between the president and Congress."
If elected, Mr. Mueller said, he would work to lower the capital gains tax, eliminate luxury taxes, and reduce income taxes while raising the tax on gasoline. The extra gas tax money would go toward roads, bridges and public transportation.
Of the GOP hopefuls, Frederic M. Parker, 31, an engineer from Columbia, is making his third challenge to Mr. Cardin. Mr. Parker lost the primary both in 1988 and 1990, but he hopes those efforts will pay off with greater name recognition this time around.
Mr. Parker said he favors setting national standards of excellence in education and the creation of a common economic market between Canada, the United States and Mexico. He said government and private industry should work closely together to rejuvenate the United States' declining manufacturing base.
"We're going to have to do that to stay competitive in this global environment," Mr. Parker said.
Mr. Bricker, a former city prosecutor, assistant attorney general and head of the Motor Vehicle Administration under Gov. Harry Hughes, said he switched parties in 1990 because he felt "disenfranchised."
He criticized Mr. Cardin as too liberal for the 3rd District and said Mr. Cardin is out of touch with voters. Mr. Bricker cited a recent bill Mr. Cardin sponsored, the so-called "puppy lemon law" that would regulate pet sales, as "frivolous."
Although Mr. Bricker has never been elected to public office -- he lost a 1976 race for the city Circuit Court bench and a 1984 run for the House of Delegates -- he says he has more experience and name recognition than his Republican opponents.
"They're young," Mr. Bricker said of his opponents. "Overall, I have more experience in government. I know where the ghosts are hidden. I know where all the fat is."
Mark Kevin White, 33, is a Towson engineer who has worked in the campaigns of other Baltimore County Republicans. The Naval Academy graduate has received the backing of two Republican county councilmen, Douglas Riley and William Howard.
Mr. White, who served in the Persian Gulf conflict but lost his defense-related civilian job with Westinghouse last fall, said he favors a more gradual reduction of U.S. armed forces in Europe and elsewhere. He also charged that Mr. Cardin is "hypocritical" because he voted against the Persian Gulf War but still makes speeches at Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion halls. Mr. White also said he wants to help restore "ethics in government."
Wyatt A. Rogers, 36, lives in Baltimore's Locust Point neighborhood and operates a Linthicum restaurant. From the small businessman's perspective, Mr. Rogers said, he favors cutting the capital gains tax, repealing the luxury tax and making it easier for small businesses to afford health insurance for their employees.
He believes that the current Congress, including Mr. Cardin, is out of touch with the voters. "Our Congress is almost comatose," he said.
Edward Lerp, 37, is a Baltimore stockbroker and longtime resident of Randallstown. He traces his candidacy to a single event: Mr. Cardin's vote in 1990 for a law that repealed burial benefits for veterans of foreign wars.
Mr. Lerp's father, a World War II veteran, had died, and his mother found out that "the token payment" to help with burial expenses had been cut by Congress.
He called the vote "crass," because it was passed in anticipation of soldiers dying in the Persian Gulf conflict.
"Come November, Mr. Cardin is going to get a big surprise," said Mr. Lerp. "It could come from Ed Lerp, but it might come from one of the other candidates."
Joseph Werner, 31, is a salesman who also runs a public relations firm. He said he's running because Cardin is "too liberal for the 3rd District."
Mr. Werner, who has a bachelor's degree in communications from Towson State University, has never run for political office. If elected, he said, he would vote to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal and remove U.S. troops from Korea, Japan and Germany.
Christopher E. Bouchat, 24, a welder from Elkridge, said he became interested in running for Congress when he took some political science courses at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
He favors restricting state and local income taxes to 10 percent. He said the loss of revenue would "shrink government's size. . . . I think it's very critical that we control the government's ability to tax."