Drawn by economic worries, a battle over abortion, bruising congressional contests and a rambunctious three-way race for the White House, Marylanders crowded into the polls to make Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton their choice for president.
Turning out in numbers that came close to a record, voters yesterday gave Mr. Clinton and his running mate, Sen. Al Gore, an easy victory over President Bush and Independent Ross Perot, who ran third.
The state's new abortion rights law was approved easily, ending a three-year struggle that cost a total of $3 million.
In the tightest of the congressional races, pitting two incumbents against each other in the cross-bay 1st District battle, Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest defeated Democrat Tom McMillen.
The two faced each other after the state's eight congressional districts were redrawn, using 1990 census figures.
Republicans also scored a victory in the 6th District. Roscoe Bartlett beat state Democratic Del. Thomas H. Hattery, who had unseated longtime incumbent, Beverly B. Byron, in the March primary.
In the 5th District, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the House, held off a strong bid from Larry Hogan Jr., a newcomer seeking to capitalize on anti-incumbent fervor.
By a wide margin, state Del. Albert R. Wynn defeated Republican Michele Dyson in the 4th District to become the state's second African-American congressman.
Each of the four remaining Maryland incumbents were re-elected by comfortable margins.
The race for United States Senate, never close, went to incumbent Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, who soundly defeated her Republican challenger, Alan L. Keyes.
The fiery Mr. Keyes appeared to damage his chances early when it was disclosed he was paying himself $8,500 a month from his campaign treasury.
Mr. Keyes said he needed the money to sustain himself against a well-financed incumbent. Pollsters said his standing suffered.
The abortion question was thought to be a major draw in yesterday's strong turnout. Good weather throughout the day gave the voters yet another incentive.
"These machines have been filled with people since five after seven this morning," said Virginia Coyle, an election judge at the Ateaze Senior Center in Dundalk. "When one was out, another was in."
Similar reports came from polls across Maryland.
Many Marylanders were clearly determined to cast their votes this year, though some expressed frustrations with the process and their choices.
Elizabeth Nead, 43, a teacher at the Maryland Institute of Art, said she voted "out of desperation. I think this country is in a terrible state, and I think the economy is collapsing. I'm 'u concerned. I voted for Clinton reluctantly. I think he's a smarmy politician, but I don't see another choice," she said.
Constance Bishop, 68, a retired government agency employee and registered Democrat, was more positive.
She voted for Mr. Clinton, seeing in him hope for a troubled time.
"I felt we needed change. The current administration doesn't understand what's happening to the average person," she said. As for President Bush's declaration that Mr. Clinton couldn't be trusted, she said:
"I didn't even consider that issue. This is not about one person's behavior, but what he'll bring to the office."
Marcus Tonti, 22, a waiter in a pizza parlor who voted at Christ Lutheran Church in Bethesda, also picked Mr. Clinton.
"I vote party line. I think Governor Clinton has better ideas in terms of health care and jobs. Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular, seem to be out of touch with Americans."
Ed DeYoung, 38, pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in #i Baltimore, took his 4-year-old son, Taylor, with him to the polls.
"I voted for Bush. I'm a little frightened of Bill Clinton because his experience is limited," he said. The minister said he considered Mr. Perot, but he was concerned about the independent's running mate, retired Adm. James Stockdale, and about Mr. Perot's standing with foreign leaders.
Robert Rosin, 41, a home builder from Bethesda and a registered Republican who voted for Mr. Bush in 1988, said he was undecided up to the last few days. He finally picked Mr. Clinton because of the Democrat's support of abortion rights and because of what he described as the president's ineffectiveness.
"I feel like Bush can't get anything done. I'd rather see something happen than nothing. I was so mixed up. I could have gone either direction. I don't believe in the Democratic ticket in general."
Mr. Rosin said the candidates' positions on abortion mattered to him in the presidential contest.
"It influenced my choice for president only because there was nothing else to hold on to."
A "Happy Days Are Here Again" crowd filled the Clinton campaign's election night headquarters at the Omni Hotel in downtown Baltimore. Each time another state was declared in the win column for Mr. Clinton, a roar erupted.
The ballroom was filled with beer-drinking, chicken-eating revelers, elated that their party's candidate had won in Maryland after two losses in presidential elections.
"I knew it all the time, I had no doubts because of the turnout I saw. Democrats are for people, not an autocrat like Bush," said Shirley Robinson, 61, who worked the polls yesterday in College Park.
Senator Mikulski, after hearing the crowd's applause for her own victory, took the microphone just before 10 p.m., saying: "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, but this chunky senator from Maryland is ready to belt it out."
Maryland Republicans met at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium. And while they were not happy with the defeat of Mr. Bush, they were not morose either.
"Some good things happened, too," said Tom McNeill, campaign director for 2nd District Rep. Helen Bentley.
Many Marylanders did not lose faith in Mr. Bush.
Democrat Frank Stenger, 57, voted for him a second time yesterday, saying that he doesn't blame the economy's troubles on the president.
"I know it's bad and all, but I don't think there's anything Clinton can do," he said.
George Bush won Maryland in 1988, but in Mr. Clinton, he faced an opponent who was far better organized than the Democratic nominee four years ago. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who gave the race spice and unpredictability as he entered, exited and re-entered, drew credit for the electoral excitement.
The candidate who most appealed to the frustration of Americans, Mr. Perot, won the support of many Marylanders despite the view the independent could not win.
Brett Cosor of Gaithersburg, 39, who runs a computer business, said he thinks this election is a turning point in the expectations that people have of the candidates.
"When I went into the polling place this morning, I felt a lot of pride at having put Ross Perot's name on the ballot," he said, referring to the petition campaign in which more than 150,000 signatures were gathered to qualify Mr. Perot under state law.
"The message from Perot is you have the power, folks, exercise it."
Perot backers, few of them suggesting their man would win, convened in an office building in the East Port section of Annapolis.
The room was decorated with American flags and star-spangled ribbons wrapped around poles. Homemade signs said, "We're All Crazy About Ross" or "Fly With The Eagle."
Bert Keith, head of the Perot campaign in Maryland, said, "I think this is the birth of a common awareness and a rejection of the excesses of the '80s."
One new voter drawn into the process this year was Ira Entis, 21, who went with the Clinton-Gore team.
"I feel like they're more realistic about the country as a whole, the social problems and the economic problems," the Bethesda man said.