With Bill Clinton's solid victory in Maryland, one might have expected those running in the state's congressional races to ride his coattails into office. But Maryland Republicans gained one seat in the state's eight-member delegation and thus evenly split the delegation between the two parties.
The most surprising race was in the 6th District, which includes portions of Columbia and western Howard County. By electing Roscoe Bartlett, voters have chosen a political novice who will have to operate in a highly political environment. Mr. Bartlett, a Republican and ideological conservative, was able to win the election. Now he must learn how to legislate in a body hostile to most of his ideas.
The 103rd Congress will be dominated by Democrats. Mr. Bartlett will have to maneuver adroitly in order to win any choice committee assignments. If he decides to use Congress merely as a bully pulpit for his conservative views, he will quickly find himself isolated and ineffectual. Nothing could be worse for his constituents, who suffer from a stagnant economy in the district's western section and rapid suburbanization in the east.
Since the focus of Mr. Bartlett's campaign was hurling irresponsible charges at Democrat Thomas Hattery, he enters Congress without a clear directive from voters. He never articulated any specific issues other than triming the size of government, eliminating regulations and reducing taxes. If Mr. Bartlett fails to develop a positive legislative program, he may have an abbreviated congressional career.
In the hard-fought 1st District race, first-termer Wayne Gilchrest used his solid Eastern Shore base to defeat Democratic third-termer Tom McMillen. The challenge for Mr. Gilchrest is to properly represent constituents in Anne Arundel County.
In other congressional races, Democrat Ben Cardin, whose 3rd District congressional seat includes eastern Howard County, won re-election easily. Also, Republicans Helen Bentley and Constance Morella and Democrats Steny Hoyer and Kweisi Mfume won their races. In the new 4th District, Democratic state Sen. Albert Wynn joins the growing number of African-American representatives.
Finally, with her expected landslide victory, Barbara Mikulski begins a second term in the U.S. Senate, where she seems destined to enhance her considerable presence.