Two House Members Lose In Md. Primaries

Albert Wynn and Wayne Gilchrest
Two U.S. House members - Republican Wayne Gilchrest and Democrat Albert Wynn - lost their seats Tuesday as primary challengers captured their parties' nominations.

They became the nation's first congressional members to lose their seats in this year's round of primary elections. However, only Maryland and Illinois have held primaries that included congressional races.

The last time two incumbent congressman lost in a Maryland primary was 1970 when Paul Sarbanes defeated George Fallon and Parren Mitchell defeated Samuel Friedel by 38 votes, according to John Willis, a professor of government and politics at the University of Baltimore and former Maryland secretary of state.

Gilchrest was seeking a 10th term representing the 1st District, encompassing the Eastern Shore, Cecil County and parts of Harford and Baltimore counties. He lost to state Sen. Andy Harris, an obstetric anesthesiologist, in a five-way race.

With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Harris had 23,119 votes, or 42 percent. Gilchrest had 18,444, or 33 percent. A second strong challenger, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, had 11,761, or 21 percent.

Harris' Democratic opponent in the November general election will be Queen Anne's County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil, who won a four-way race after receiving endorsements from state party leaders including Gov. Martin O'Malley. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Kratovil had 20,461, or 40 percent of the vote.

During the campaign, Harris and Pipkin had attacked Gilchrest and each other in television ads, radio spots and in mailers that focused on the economy, illegal immigration and Iraq. Gilchrest is one of two Republicans to vote last year for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

Illegal immigration appeared to eclipse the war as a key issue in the final weeks of the campaign. Pipkin sent out campaign ads showing Gilchrest and Harris wearing sombreros.

Wynn is in his eighth term representing Maryland's 4th District, which includes many of Washington's eastern and northern suburbs. He lost to primary challenger Donna Edwards, a lawyer and liberal activist, in a field of six candidates.

With 65 percent of precincts reporting, Edwards had 41,591 votes, or 60 percent. Wynn had 24,448, or 35 percent.

Republican nominee Peter James, a high-technology consultant and self-professed Ron Paul candidate, has little chance of defeating Edwards in the heavily Democratic district. James defeated three other GOP candidates. With 65 percent of precincts reporting, he had 3,098 votes, or 38 percent.

Edwards, who lost to Wynn by just three percentage points in the 2006 primary, capitalized on voter dissatisfaction with some of his votes on the Iraq war and home foreclosures. She attacked Wynn for his initial support of the war, even though he has since called for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

She also criticized his vote for a 2005 bankruptcy-reform bill that Edwards said exacerbated problems for homeowners facing foreclosure. The district includes Prince George's County, which has the highest rate of foreclosures in Maryland.

Wynn said during the campaign that Edwards exaggerated the effect of the bankruptcy change.

Wynn had campaigned hard, reminding voters of his push to impeach Vice President Cheney and his support for the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill, which President Bush vetoed.

Voters braved snow, rain, ice and sleet to cast their votes. The foul weather prompted the state elections board to extend voting for 90 minutes to allow people stuck in evening rush-hour traffic to get to the polls.