Amid the outrageous rancor and hyper-partisanship of contemporary Washington, the Eastern Shore's Wayne T. Gilchrest is a throwback to the founders' concept of citizen legislators. For 18 years, the former schoolteacher has thought for himself and boldly followed a course of his own choosing, right of center on some issues, veering left on others. Few in the GOP have been as strong on environmental causes, a fitting approach for a congressional district geographically centered on the Chesapeake Bay.
At a time when such statesmanship is needed more than ever, it would be a disservice not only to the residents of Maryland's sprawling 1st Congressional District but also to the nation to replace him with a rigid doctrinaire or someone who is not well-qualified for the post. That's why The Baltimore Sun endorses Queen Anne's County State's Attorney Frank M. Kratovil Jr. over his opponents, Baltimore County state Sen. Andy Harris and Libertarian Party candidate Richard James Davis of Hurlock, for the House seat.
Mr. Kratovil, 40, describes himself as a Blue Dog Democrat, and holds positions that are more conservative than many in his party. He has made restoring fiscal accountability in Washington and ending the war in Iraq cornerstones of his campaign.
This newspaper differs with Mr. Kratovil on any number of issues, from his more nativist outlook on immigration reform to his support of the death penalty, but his views are likely in line with the majority of his district. His political independence is also something 1st District voters can embrace, having similarly supported for the office right-of-center Democrat Roy P. Dyson of St. Mary's County and Rogers C.B. Morton, a moderate Republican who later served in the Cabinets of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Such level-headedness is in stark contrast to the staunchly conservative Mr. Harris, whose time in Annapolis has been characterized by unyielding orthodoxy and little in the way of accomplishment. The senator may claim to be a friend to the Chesapeake Bay, but his failure to support fellow Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s most notable achievement as governor, a "flush tax" to clean up polluting sewage plants and septic systems, is typical of his disdain for environmental measures of consequence.
Mr. Kratovil has not demonstrated such a proclivity for absolutism; his more tempered and thoughtful approach is desperately needed in the halls of Congress.