Maryland: Gilchrest Hints He May Not Back Harris in Nov.

Posted February 27, 2008 at 6:41pm

Republicans who were hoping that vanquished Rep. Wayne Gilchrest would endorse the man who beat him in the Republican primary earlier this month, state Sen. Andy Harris, may be disappointed.

In an interview on Tuesday, Gilchrest said he has decided whom he will endorse in the general election between Harris and Queen Anne County State’s Attorney Frank Kratovil (D), but he would not reveal who it is and when he will go public with his preference.

But it was hard not to read between the lines.

“That’s an interesting question,” Gilchrest replied when asked who he will endorse. “Let’s see, the Republican Party, or my eternal soul? Party loyalty, or integrity?”

Gilchrest refused to elaborate, except to say that he hasn’t yet talked to Kratovil. The Democrat has been trying to portray himself as the true heir to Gilchrest’s legacy — painting himself as a political moderate and trying to take advantage of the fact that he, like Gilchrest, comes from the Eastern Shore.

Harris, who won the GOP primary by touting his conservative credentials, comes from Baltimore County, west of Chesapeake Bay.

If Gilchrest were to remain neutral in the general election or endorse Kratovil, it would be similar to the 2006 election cycle, when then-Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-Mich.), another political moderate, refused to endorse the conservative candidate who ousted him in the Republican primary, Rep. Tim Walberg. Walberg, like Harris, was backed by the Club for Growth, and Schwarz wrote Gilchrest a campaign check earlier in the year.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) said Wednesday that he hopes Gilchrest stays true to his party given that President Bush, Cole personally and the party over the years helped him with campaign cash and other support.

“You’ve got to accept the will of the voters of his own party,” Cole said. “He had a fair shot. I would hate to see him end a long career that way because it would seem that he’s a sore loser, and I don’t think that’s who Wayne Gilchrest is. I think Wayne Gilchrest is an honorable man and I think he will do the honorable thing.”
— Steven T. Dennis