Skip to comments.Wayne's World War on the Eastern Shore?- Conservative Groups Target Moderate Gilchrest
Posted on 08/19/2002 1:40:49 PM PDT by ForOurFuture
August 19, 2002
Wayne's World War on the Eastern Shore? Conservative Groups Target Moderate Gilchrest
By Chris Cillizza
Vacationland has suddenly turned into a political battleground.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest will face hard-charging attorney David Fischer in the Sept. 10 GOP primary in Maryland's 1st district, a seat made up almost entirely of the state's portion of the Eastern Shore, a rural area that is also a prime getaway spot for many in the mid-Atlantic region.
Fischer's candidacy has gained significant national support over the past several weeks, as he has secured the backing of the National Rifle Association and Club for Growth, among other conservative interest groups.
The club sent a mailing to its members on Thursday recommending they donate to Fischer's campaign, executive director David Keating confirmed Friday.
Allies of Gilchrest including the Republican MainStreet Partnership and the League of Conservation Voters are contemplating weighing in on his behalf to blunt the effect of Fischer's recent string of endorsements. "The League of Conservation Voters is always ready to help our friends, and Wayne Gilchrest is certainly no exception," said LCV spokeswoman Abby Jones.
Neither RMSP nor LCV would commit to financial or organizational support for Gilchrest, however.
Although Gilchrest has seen several challenges from both the right and left since first being elected in 1990, he has regularly put down opponents with relative ease. Tony Caligiuri, Gilchrest's chief of staff, said he expects a similar scenario to play out in this primary.
"None of this opposition is coming from within the district," said Caligiuri. "This is a group of outsiders trying to buy a seat in Congress."
Fischer's campaign disagrees, arguing that the support of groups such as the NRA and Club For Growth shows that Gilchrest is out of step with the mainstream of his party. "Wayne Gilchrest is a nice guy and everybody likes him, but he fits the Eastern Shore about how I would fit in New York City," said Fischer consultant Tommy Hopper. Hopper also charged that Gilchrest has been on the attack since Fischer entered the fray. "I judge a race by what the opposition is doing," he said.
He claimed that Gilchrest has sought help from Majority Leader DickA rmey (R-Texas), Majority Whip Tom DeLay(R-Texas) and officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Fischer, an attorney making his first run for office, has presented himself as the conservative alternative to Gilchrest, a leading GOP moderate in the House.
A Democratic-led redrawing of the state's Congressional lines added GOP areas in suburban Baltimore to the 1st district, which for the past 10 years has been entirely contained on the Maryland coast. Gilchrest picked up portions of Baltimore and Harford counties; Rep. Bob Ehrlich (R), who is running for governor, had previously represented both counties.
Under the new 1st district lines, President Bush would have received 58 percent of the vote in 2000, a 5-point improvement over his actual performance in the district, according to figures provided by the NRCC.
Gilchrest's campaign estimated that redistricting added 18,000 new primary voters to the district.
Although he and Fischer are next-door neighbors, Ehrlich has sent a letter to the 1st district's new voters urging them to support the incumbent in the primary. Gilchrest followed up with a letter of his own touting Ehrlich's support, according to Caligiuri. The two Members spent Friday campaigning together in the district.
PaulEllington, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, dashed off a letter toFischer earlier this month scolding him for the tone of his campaign. "Negative attacks only serve to discourage voter turnout and set a poor example for those participating in the political process," wrote Ellington.
Despite the institutional support for Gilchrest, Fischer's campaign believes he represents the strongest challenge to the Congressman in his 12-year tenure.
Much of the argument for the legitimacy of Fischer's candidacy is centered on his financial resources. He has donated $113,000 of his own money to the race and raised $52,000 more; he had $135,000 in reserve at the end of June.
Gilchrest, who does not accept contributions from political action committees, had raised $209,000 for the race with $151,000 in the bank through June 30.
Caligiuri points out that Gilchrest has survived well-funded challengers before.
In 1992 Gilchrest surprised the political establishment by knocking off then-Rep.Tom McMillen (D) in a redistricting-created tussle where he was outspent $1.6 million to $395,000.
"The district is just not for sale," concluded Caligiuri.
The level of financial commitment that Club For Growth and other national groups offer Fischer, however, may hold the key to his chances of knocking off Gilchrest.
Club For Growth has dabbled successfully in a handful of Congressional primaries in 2002, expending the most political and financial capital on House races inIowa and New Jersey. In both, the club helped nominate a conservative state legislator by bundling contributions from their nationwide network of donors and also funding crucial television advertising in the races' final weeks.
Keating, the group's executive director, said that no decision had been made regarding television or radio buys on Fischer's behalf.
Hopper believes that the club will be heavily involved because "this is the only chance in the nation of knocking off a RINO [Republican in Name Only]." "There is going to be significant help from them," he added.
The NRA's involvement is likely to aid Fischer in his turnout program; the organization received plaudits for its work on behalf of Rep.John Dingell(D-Mich.) in his Aug. 6 primary race against fellow Rep. LynnRivers.
Regardless of how much influence outside groups bring to bear on the race, both campaigns believe the contest will be ultimately be seen as a referendum on Gilchrest's record. "His voting record is totally out of touch," said Hopper. "He was the eighth most likely Republican to vote with Bill Clinton."
Caligiuri chooses to paint Gilchrest as a "fiscal conservative" with broad bipartisan support in the district.
As for Fischer and his allies, Caligiuri says: "People who need political purism are too naive to be involved in politics, especially in this district."
The two Members spent Friday campaigning together in the district.
RINOs supporting RINOs. I am shocked but not surprised.
"Hopper believes that the club will be heavily involved because "this is the only chance in the nation of knocking off a RINO [Republican in Name Only]."
Wow! Didn't the term RINO originate on FR? Is Fischer a Freeper?
A Democratic-led redrawing of the state's Congressional lines added GOP areas in suburban Baltimore to the 1st district, which for the past 10 years has been entirely contained on the Maryland coast.
Not true! The 1st district has contained part of the western shore as long as I can remember. And it has certainly for the past ten years.
As for this guy Ellington, he's said a few things lately that ruffle my feathers. I've been a Maryland Republican a lot longer than he has and I find him offensive.
This is indeed a golden opportunity. All anti-RINO FReepers should go to Fischer's web site and donate something to the campaign.
Count me in that NAIVE group! If I lived in that district, I would be working the phone banks, stuffing envelopes, and putting up signs for Fischer.
Keep it up, blabbermouth.
The *stupid* statement made by your RINO *buddy* about "RINO"s was bad enough; serving only to stir-up a real hornet's nest of activism.
You dumbasses are doing what our leadership has consistently failed to accomplish.
Effectively, "Turning an unorganized mod into an avenging army."
...so *Mr.* Caligiuri, just go ahead & keep it up, stupid. :o)
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