Call it the Battle of the Preps. Two old classmates from the Gilman School and Princeton University (Class of '75 and '79, respectively) will likely go head-to-head next year for the 2nd District Congressional seat that Rep. Helen D. Bentley will vacate in her bid for the Governor's Mansion.
These two front-runners, Republican Robert Ehrlich of Timonium and Democrat Gerry Brewster of Towson, share a number of striking similarities. In addition to their common academic background, both represent Baltimore County in the House of Delegates. Both serve on the House Judiciary Committee. Both have the smooth manner and good looks that are pure gold in an age when television plays a major role in politics.
Both men also have had their eyes on the 2nd District seat for years. At first blush, the advantage seems to go to Republican Ehrlich since the district was redrawn by Gov. William Donald Schaefer expressly for the comfort of his friend Mrs. Bentley.
Embracing all of Harford County, eastern and northern Baltimore County and a small piece of northern Anne Arundel County, the new 2nd is decidedly Republican: a 92 percent white population, a median household income of $40,120, a median house value of $110,500. The district's recent voting history also favors the GOP, as evidenced by the solid showings made there by George Bush, in 1988 and 1992 as well.
No wonder Mr. Brewster has begun touting his interest in Ross Perot, his conservative bent and his friendship with tennis star and Republican supporter Pam Shriver. But the Towson Democrat will be a strong candidate for other reasons. There's the family name; his father is former U.S. Sen. Daniel Brewster, who will be counted on for his advice, financial backing and contacts.
For his part, Mr. Ehrlich, a native of working-class Arbutus, can boast of greater achievements as a state delegate. He is especially respected in Annapolis among his peers for his nitty-gritty work on Judiciary Committee business.
Other possible candidates on the Democratic side include previously unsuccessful congressional candidates Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Barbara O. Kreamer. Sen. F. Vernon Boozer and Del. Martha Klima, both Baltimore County legislators, are among the Republicans who might run for Mrs. Bentley's seat. However, the early odds are that this race will come down to a battle between two old prep school chums who, unwittingly or not, have been on a collision course for quite some time.