Michael C. Hickey Jr., who is waging an underdog campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley in the November election, has signed a pledge to work to limit the terms of members of Congress.
Mr. Hickey, who pledged Friday to support any law to limit members of the House of Representatives to 12 years and U.S. senators to three six-year terms, said that existing conditions make it virtually impossible to unseat an entrenched incumbent.
Tuesday, Mr. Hickey, 45, said that barring major campaign financing reforms, term limits are the voters' only way to avoid a Congress so accustomed to its own privilege and self-importance that its members refuse to listen to the people.
Mrs. Bentley, the 2nd District Republican who defeated an 11-term incumbent, had a simple rejoinder to Mr. Hickey's argument that incumbents can't be beaten.
"I did it," she said in her characteristically blunt manner.
The four-term congresswoman also said she expects to keep running for re-election for years to come.
"I will go along with term limits with elected officials, if they have it for staff and bureaucrats, too," said Mrs. Bentley, 68. "I spend half my time fighting with the bureaucracy."
Mrs. Bentley said many top federal bureaucrats think that elected officials come and go but bureaucrats stay forever. Imposing term limits only on those who are elected would lend credence to the bureaucrats' beliefs and result in elected officials becoming no more than "lace on curtains," she said.
Mrs. Bentley also curtly rejected any notion that she might retire to the role of Republican "elder states woman" if she wins one more election.
"B ," she said in response to Mr. Hickey's suggestion that she may retire, or run for other office in 1994. To fellow Republicans who may be eager to see her retire from party leadership she was equally blunt.
"When they [other Republicans] can raise as much money for the party as I can, when any of them can keep up with me and my 16- to 18-hour days, . . ." she said, dismissing the notion as she spoke.
Mrs. Bentley currently has $314,000 in her campaign fund. Mr. Hickey, a Democratic lawyer from Harford County, has raised $7,000.