Rep. Frank Kratovil went to Washington promising to put his constituents above his party, and he's accomplished that. On the biggest issues of the last two years, he has voted with Democrats when he believed that has been the right thing for his constituents, and he has voted with Republicans when he's thought that was the right thing to do. He has stood up for the environment and economic development in his district and against bank bailouts, the federal budget and the health care reform law. He is the rare politician who has scored endorsements from groups as diverse as the League of Conservation Voters, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association. We don't always agree with him, but there can be no doubt that he carries on the fine tradition of his Republican predecessor, Wayne Gilchrest, as an independent-minded congressman for the 1st District.
The same cannot be said for his opponent, state Sen. Andy Harris, who developed a reputation for unrelenting partisanship in his years in Annapolis. Many voters are angry about the direction of the country and of the Congress, and Mr. Harris gives strong voice to that anger, just as he has been the leader of conservative Republicans in the Senate. But in his time in Annapolis, Mr. Harris has shown a preference for scoring ideological points over solving problems. The result is not just shown by the lack of major legislation bearing his name. In fairness, it is difficult for a Republican in very Democratic Annapolis to push through many bills. But Republicans can and do exert influence through compromise and negotiation to make legislation less liberal, and that is where he has truly failed. When there's a choice between being a constructive part of the process and standing outside it and throwing rocks, Mr. Harris throws rocks.
Amid all the big-dollar negative advertising in this race, it has been tough to get at a discussion of the issues, but in an interview with The Sun's editorial board, Mr. Kratovil displayed a tendency toward pragmatism. (Mr. Harris declined an invitation to meet with the board; he was the only candidate of either party to do so this year.) On deficit reduction, Mr. Kratovil favors a balance between reducing spending and weeding out tax breaks. On the environment, he sees a role for the federal government in making sure all states in the region — not just Maryland — take the steps necessary to restore the Chesapeake Bay. He sees energy legislation as not just a means to protect the environment but also as a tool of job creation and national security. On immigration, he favors not just beefing up border security but also going after employers who hire illegal aliens.
Any voter who looks at Mr. Kratovil's record is bound to find something to disagree with, and we're no exception. But he keeps his own counsel and is more interested in finding solutions than scoring political points. If voters are interested in someone who can vent their anger, Mr. Harris is their man. But we think the district would be better served by someone who will actually try to fix what they're angry about, and the candidate who will do that is Mr. Kratovil. He earns our support for a second term.