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Incumbent Defeats in Maryland Primaries Indicate Party Divisions

Two incumbent members of congress lost the primaries in Maryland on Tuesday. The defeat of an incumbent is rare, but the defeat of two incumbents causes political analysts to take notice, according to the Baltimore Sun. Progressive feminist candidate Donna Edwards defeated Democratic incumbent Al Wynn, who had a history of voting in support of the Bush administration. Right-wing Republican Andy Harris defeated incumbent Wayne Gilchrest, who the Washington Post reports won the distinction of being the Republican most likely vote against his own party.

Gilchrest has a mixed voting record on abortion, and he is one of the few republicans who voted against the war in Iraq. Harris’s campaign against Gilchrest was characterized by criticism of Gilchrest’s “too moderate”‘ record, according to the Baltimore Sun. Gilchrest stated after his defeat, “I’m not bitter, but my God, what’s happened to democracy? It’s a clear sign the party is split between dogma and tolerance.”

Last summer, Gilchrest similarly critiqued the Republican Party in an interview with Reason Magazine, “I think the GOP was dissolving. Now it’s drying up and the wind’s going to blow it away. I just don’t think we have the depth of knowledge, intellect, and experience necessary for a viable political party any more…I was a Republican and I still am. I’m not sure if maybe the GOP has been hijacked…Issues that shouldn’t be occupying a nation like this, with our place in global politics. We’re stuck on gay marriage, flag burning; we’re supposed to make sure you get campaign contributions from the NRA. We were stuck with those for so many years.”

The results of Tuesday’s primaries suggest voters are less likely to compromise than campaign rhetoric has proclaimed, reports the Baltimore Sun, but they also suggest voters’ desire for change. Both candidates, Edwards and Harris, won by appealing to their party base.

Sources:

Feminist News Wire 02/13/08; The Baltimore Sun 02/14/08; The Washington Post 02/14/08; Reason Magazine 05/08/07