Monday, September 16

Republicans and Democrats, oh my! - It was not a primary race that captivated the nation's attention, but in our summer travels to the beach Jamie and I frequently traveled the contested territory of Maryland's 1st District. Home to incumbent moderate Republican Wayne Gilchrest, the 1st encompasses all of the Eastern Shore plus parts of the Annapolis and Baltimore areas. Gilchrest faced down a 32-year-old lawyer named David Fischer, a well-financed opponent who attacked from the right, claiming the six-term incumbent was "shockingly liberal" and a "Bill Clinton Republican." Apparently Gilchrest's relatively mainstream views on gay civil rights and the environment became fodder for Fischer in trying to woo the conservative rural voters of the district.

Attention from national hard-right groups like the Club for Growth helped raise the profile of the fight and caused a substantial amount of conservative money to pour into the election. (NPR's All Things Considered reports on the phenomenon.) Gilchrest got his own boost from that rarest of electoral institutions, the mainstream, when the Republican Main Street Partnership called in support. A week later, moderates can breathe a bit easier as it is clear that Gilchrest staved off the extremist onslaught.

While Gilchrest is almost certain to win the general election now, the same cannot be said for another Maryland "RiNO" (as the right-wingnuts call 'em), Constance Morella. She faces a tough challenge in the 8th District, but she may have earned some breathing space after the Democrats rejected the Kennedy clan to put a classic, blue-collar liberal on the ticket. (The district includes many limosine liberals.) Still, Morella will face an immense amount of money and pressure from Democrats who see her seat as one of the most crucial in their efforts to regain control of the House.

Personally, I think it's more important to have people of good sense who can vote their conscience, like these two, in the Congress. A switch in party control might bring about certain policies which I favor (like ENDA or an end to DADT) a little quicker. But there are also many planks in the Dem's platform I don't support. Frankly, the leadership and their policies on the left (especially in the House) aren't much more palatable than the leadership and their policies on the right. As a staunch mainstreamer, the party system rarely produces results I support, except when it is nearly deadlocked. So I'm looking forward to continued split governance between a Republican president and a Congress divided.