State Del. Bennett Bozman, a conservative Democrat from the Eastern Shore, said yesterday that he plans to run for Congress next year against Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.
Bozman, a third-term delegate from Worcester County, could give Gilchrest his most serious challenge in eight years. Bozman said he is "about 99 percent" certain he will run for the 1st District congressional seat.
The 1st District includes all the Eastern Shore, parts of Anne Arundel County and a sliver of southern Baltimore. Because state legislators are not up for election next year, Bozman would not have to relinquish his seat in the House of Delegates, where he is chairman of a Ways and Means subcommittee.
Bozman, 62, said he would stress the high co-payments that Medicare recipients in rural areas must pay health maintenance organizations. He said HMO fees, which recipients had been told would be free, are now as high as $75 a month for an individual in a rural area while urban recipients often pay nothing.
He said Gilchrest has been slow to address the problem at the federal level. "I would have put in a bill to correct this immediately," Bozman said. "I think I'll be more responsive to the people in the district on this problem."
Tony Caligiuri, Gilchrest's administrative assistant, appeared nonchalant about Bozman's planned challenge.
"He's an affable guy who has sought our assistance many times for his constituent problems, and I think we have always helped him," Caligiuri said. He said Gilchrest plans to introduce Medicare legislation soon.
Any race against the popular Gilchrest would be an uphill battle. The former house painter, who first won his seat in an upset victory in 1990, held the seat in 1992 despite being thrown into a more urban district with Democratic Rep. Thomas McMillen.
Since then, Gilchrest -- regarded as a moderate, pro-environment voice within his party -- has easily dispatched a series of little-known Democrats.
But Democrats view the folksy Bozman as the most credible challenger to Gilchrest to emerge since McMillen -- not too liberal for the district and with a solid political base on the lower Shore.
Bozman spent 12 years as a Worcester County commissioner and has represented Worcester,Wicomico and Somerset counties since 1991. He played an important role in pushing for construction of the Ocean City Convention Center.
In a normal year, those advantages might not be enough to beat Gilchrest, but Democrats are hoping that the effort to impeach President Clinton will hurt Republican chances in 2000.
"The dynamics of the national election obviously will play a role," said Del. Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat.
Busch said Bozman needs to build name recognition in Anne Arundel County but has the potential to run a strong race there.
Pub Date: 1/29/99