With Bill Clinton's solid victory in Maryland, one might have expected Democrats in the state's congressional races to ride his coattails into office. But Maryland Republicans were able to gain two seats in the state's eight-member delegation, evenly splitting the delegation between the two parties.
The most surprising race was in the 6th District. By electing Roscoe Bartlett, Western Maryland voters have chosen a political novice. Mr. Bartlett, a Republican and ideological conservative, was able to win the election, but now he must learn how to legislate in a body hostile to most of his ideas.
The 103rd Congress will be dominated by Democrats with at least moderately liberal agendas. In Congress -- where the modus operandi is "reward your friends and punish your enemies" -- Mr. Bartlett will have to maneuver adroitly in order to win any choice committee assignments. If Mr. Bartlett decides to use his congressional seat merely as a bully pulpit to broadcast his conservative views, he will quickly find himself isolated and ineffectual. Nothing could be worse for his constituents, who suffer from the twin ills of a stagnant economy in the district's western section and rapid suburbanization in the eastern end.
Since the focus of Mr. Bartlett's campaign was hurling irresponsible charges at Democrat Thomas Hattery, he enters Congress without a clear directive from the voters. He never articulated any specific issues other than trimming down government, eliminating regulations and reducing taxes. If Mr. Bartlett fails to develop a positive legislative program to benefit his constituents, he may have an abbreviated congressional career.
In the hard-fought 1st District, first-termer Wayne Gilchrest used his solid Eastern Shore base to defeat Democratic third-termer Tom McMillen. The challenge facing Mr. Gilchrest is to adequately represent his Anne Arundel constituents.
In other congressional races, Republicans Helen Bentley and Constance Morella and Democrats Benjamin Cardin, Steny Hoyer and Kweisi Mfume won their races. In the newly created 4th District, state Sen. Albert Wynn joins the growing number of African-American representatives. And, with her expected victory, Barbara Mikulski begins a second U.S. Senate term in which should enhance her considerable presence in that body.