Vying to face Gilchrest

The Baltimore Sun

One is a physician. Another, an attorney with 10 years' experience as an aide on Capitol Hill. And the third, a businessman who lost a run for the same seat two years ago.

The three Democrats are competing in Tuesday's primary for the chance to represent Maryland's 1st Congressional District. But the real test won't come until November - taking on eight-term incumbent Wayne T. Gilchrest, the lone Republican candidate.

The sprawling 1st District includes the Eastern Shore and small pieces of Anne Arundel, Harford and Baltimore counties. The number of registered Democrats and Republicans is almost even.

Of the three Democratic candidates, only Kostas Alexakis has previously run for public office. He lost to Gilchrest in 2002, getting about 24 percent of the vote.

The other two candidates are Dr. Jim Corwin, a family physician and former medical director of the Baltimore Medical System, and Christopher R. Robinson, an attorney who worked for former 1st District congressman Roy P. Dyson - now a state senator - until Dyson lost to Gilchrest in 1990.

All three say they are running to usher in an era of change. They criticize Gilchrest's tenure, saying he hasn't done enough to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Gilchrest, meanwhile, points to his environmental record and funding obtained for bay projects as his main accomplishments.

The 60-year-old congressman is taking the attacks in stride and says he welcomes the competition in the general election.

Alexakis is especially critical of Gilchrest's performance, saying the congressman has failed to protect the bay.

"I've been totally frustrated with the incumbent's inability to do things that are necessary to improve the quality of life, most notably the condition of the bay," said Alexakis, 52, who lives in Arnold and owns real estate and aviation development firms.

Alexakis, a Greek immigrant who came to the United States when he was 13, says he's also concerned about education, health care and Iraq. He says he wants a health care system that would allow citizens to buy insurance with subsidies or credit. He supports the No Child Left Behind law, but says government must do better to fully fund it. And he believes American troops must get out of Iraq immediately.

"We can never participate in the rebuilding of Iraq because we have taken sides and there are millions of people that are against us," he said.

Corwin says Alexakis is running a one-issue campaign because of his emphasis on the bay. He, too, criticizes Gilchrest's performance. "He's lost his way," said Corwin, 49, of Severna Park. "He's part and parcel of what's wrong in Washington today. He's been voting almost lock step with the administration."

Corwin supports investing more in health care, education and research on energy independence. He supports expanding the Head Start program and increasing money for loan and grant programs for higher education and teacher training.

He advocates setting up a federal health care reserve in which governments, businesses and households make contributions, and individuals can access it to purchase insurance.

With regard to energy independence, Corwin supports measures to promote conservation and investing in alternative sources such as biodiesel and corn-based ethanol, for the short term. "For the long term, we need a good, safe, clean, renewable source alternative," said Corwin.

Robinson points to his 10 years working for Dyson as experience that makes him better prepared than his counterparts. "I have a background in politics," said Robinson, 51, of Trappe in Talbot County.

Robinson began as a field director during Dyson's first congressional campaign and became his legislative assistant and director, and eventually chief of staff.

When he was on the Hill, Robinson said, he helped draft a bill that dedicated millions of dollars to cleaning up the bay. "I really felt that all you had to do was keep working hard on it and over time, you would see positive results," he said.

Robinson says he's running to bring some fiscal sense to Congress and would focus largely on the environment and energy conservation. "I think the present administration and the Congress has just been so fiscally irresponsible," he said.


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