Democratic Rep. Albert R. Wynn, running in one of Maryland's most competitive congressional races against a candidate he once hired as a summer clerk, took an early lead in last night's primary, but the race was too close to call.
Wynn, first elected to the 4th District in suburban Washington in 1992, faced Donna Edwards, a former foundation executive whom Wynn hired when she was in law school two decades ago and who ran a spirited campaign that called the incumbent's voting record and ethics into question.
The race - which also included Forest Heights contractor George E. McDermott - drew national attention as the election approached because Edwards made an issue of Wynn's vote to support the war in Iraq. Some predicted that the outcome of the race would be an indication of the strength of anti-incumbent sentiments.
With more than half of the district's precincts reporting, Wynn had a slight lead, but officials with both campaigns said early this morning that returns were not conclusive.
Six of the state's incumbents - four Democrats, two Republicans - had captured significant majorities early last night, or faced no opposition. Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen led Deborah A. Vollmer in the 8th District. Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett was safely ahead of Joseph T. Krysztoforski in Western Maryland.
Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who represents portions of the city and Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, had a significant early lead over Christopher C. Boardman.
Three incumbents, Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest, who represents the Eastern Shore, Democrat Elijah E. Cummings, who represents much of Baltimore City and Howard County, and Democrat Steny H. Hoyer, from Southern Maryland, faced no primary opposition.
Besides the 3rd District contest, which was made especially competitive by an open seat, the 4th District attracted the most attention because of Edwards' campaigning. Some tried to link Wynn to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who lost the Connecticut Democratic primary last month in part because of his position on the war. In an article Monday, The New Republic called Wynn "Maryland's Own Joe Lieberman."
This week, Edwards accused Wynn of claiming to have the support of groups that made no endorsement, such as the Service Employees International Union. Officials of the groups told The Washington Post that they had not supported a candidate, and many demanded that Wynn remove their organization's name from his campaign material.
Edwards, 48, attracted the praise of liberal bloggers and Hollywood types, including Barbra Streisand and Susan Sarandon, who donated to her campaign. Actor and activist Danny Glover recorded an automated phone message in support of Edwards.
Wynn, 55, an attorney who served in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, counts securing money for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, anti-gang efforts, prison re-entry programs and diabetes screenings as accomplishments during his last term, along with the consolidation of the Food and Drug Administration.
The 4th District, which includes portions of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, is heavily Democratic, with a strong, well-organized black electorate. The winner of the primary will face Republican Michael Moshe Starkman, 28, of Rockville, a manager for a software development company.