Off and Running for Congress ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY


With yesterday's announcement by Rep. Helen D. Bentley that she is running for governor and leaving her Second Congressional District seat, two old friends become top contenders to succeed her.

Robert Ehrlich and Gerry Brewster were classmates at Gilman School and then Princeton. Both earned law degrees. Both represent Baltimore County in the House of Delegates, Republican Ehrlich since 1987 and Democrat Brewster since 1991. Both serve on the House Judiciary Committee. Both are young and loaded with the personal charms that often spell success in modern politics.

And for the past three years, both have been positioning themselves to take Mrs. Bentley's place some day. The district was redrawn last year. It includes parts of northern Anne Arundel (Gibson Island and affluent sections of Severna Park and Pasadena), all of Harford County and northern and eastern Baltimore County.

At this early stage, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Brewster are the front-runners in their respective parties. They have long been preparing for this and can be expected to get off to aggressive starts on the campaign trail. For his part, Mr. Brewster can bank on the name, the counsel and the deep pockets of his father, former Sen. Daniel Brewster. Mr. Ehrlich may be less well-known, but he can point to a better record as a Judiciary Committee member who has done a lot of solid work on that panel.

Since the Second District was redrawn by Gov. William Donald Schaefer for the benefit of his pal, Mrs. Bentley, it is staunchly Republican, with a Republican voting history and demographics that shout out Republicanism.

Advantage, Mr. Ehrlich? It looks that way. No doubt the make-up of the Second helps to explain why Mr. Brewster is now touting such rock-ribbed conservative credentials as his membership in Ross Perot's United We Stand America organization and his friendship with tennis star and prominent Republican Pam Shriver.

Among other potential bidders for the seat are Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Barbara Kreamer on the Democratic side, and Del. Martha Klima and Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, two Baltimore County Republican legislators. If any of them enter the race, they'll probably be aiming at a pair of front-runners named Ehrlich and Brewster.

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