Morella challenger declines to run; Neas says family comes before run for Congress


WASHINGTON -- Ralph G. Neas, the unsuccessful Democratic challenger to Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella last year, announced yesterday that he would not seek the Montgomery County seat in 2000, saying he would prefer to spend time with his newborn daughter than soliciting campaign contributions.

In a telephone message left for a reporter yesterday, Neas sang a tribute to his daughter: "Maria -- I've just met a girl named Maria."

Democrats will be able to take back the 8th District seat, the 53-year-old Neas said, but they'll have to do it without him as the candidate.

His decision appears to leave Montgomery County Democrats without a prominent candidate for the race. State Del. Mark K. Shriver has indicated that he will forgo a congressional campaign until at least 2002, when Morella's district could be redrawn.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly are expected to try to reconfigure the state's Republican-held congressional districts to make them more hospitable for Democratic candidates.

Neas, a longtime civil rights activist, had appeared to throw himself into a rematch with a vengeance, having raised more than $122,000 in the first six months of this year for a race in which costs could reach $2 million. Neas has pledged to return the donations.

In last year's campaign, Neas spent more than $810,000 and drew 40 percent of the vote against the popular Morella, 68, whose moderate social stances hold a strong appeal for her highly Democratic constituency.

Neas said he was not daunted by last year's results. Rather, he said, he did not want to spend too much time away from his family.

"This would necessarily include six hours a day on the telephone raising the obscene amount of money that a congressional challenger must raise to unseat an incumbent," Neas wrote in a statement. "Such a schedule for the next year would not allow me time to fulfill my roles as a spouse and a parent."

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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