Rep. Frank Kratovil (D)
Maryland 1st District
Chesapeake Bay is technically not a bay but an estuary. It was the central focus of the most thickly settled of the 13 colonies and today remains a central focus for much of modern Maryland. The first British here were amazed at the Chesapeake’s oysters and terrapin turtles and crabs and rockfish. This was an estuary civilization in colonial days, with every little hamlet tied together by the highways of bays and creeks and inlets off the Chesapeake. The streets and docks of Chestertown, Oxford, St. Michaels and Cambridge still look something like they did when George Washington slept there.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In post-colonial times, when most Americans were caught up in the romance of westward movement, these estuaries and peninsulas were mostly forgotten, located too far off the main lines of railroads and highways. In the 160 years between 1790 and 1950, the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland only doubled in population, perhaps the slowest growth rate on the Eastern Seaboard. Over the past half-century, much of the Chesapeake has changed beyond recognition, as the Eastern Shore has grown vigorously, with second-home buyers, retirees and commuters across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Now, this is a land of genteel estates fronting the water and of Frank Perdue’s thriving chicken empire around Salisbury, of Easton’s Waterfowl Festival and St. Michaels’s Oysterfest, and of the swarms of motorboats and sailing ships making their way up and down the inlets or under the twin spans of the Bay Bridge. This growth has forced people along the Bay to confront issues that once would have been unimaginable here, such as high-rise condominiums obscuring the sunrise in an old fishing village like Crisfield.
But more threatening is pollution. Agricultural and suburban runoff have vastly depleted marine populations, and only a few watermen still make livings bringing crabs and oysters to shore. Since 1990, the blue-crab harvest has dropped by two-thirds. Various attempts at cleanup by governmental agencies over the years have been helpful but not entirely successful. In early 2009, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce limits on pollution entering the Bay.
The 1st Congressional District of Maryland includes all nine counties of the Eastern Shore. It extends across the Bay and grabs parts of Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties to strip Republican strongholds from the congressional districts that once contained them. The Baltimore and Harford county suburbs north of Baltimore are as solidly Republican as any part of Maryland. Although it is hard to avoid thinking of this district as the Eastern Shore district, nearly half the votes are cast on the west side of the Bay. This was one of only two districts in the state that twice voted for Republican George W. Bush—and comfortably. In 2008, it was one of two Maryland districts that voted for Republican presidential nominee John McCain, giving him 59%-40% over Democrat Barack Obama.
Rep. Frank Kratovil (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: May 29, 1968, Lanham .
Education: W. MD Col., B.A. 1990; U. of Baltimore, J.D. 1994..
Family: Married (Kimberly); 4 children.
Elected office: State's attorney, Queen Anne's County, 2002-08.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1994-present.
The new congressman from the 1st Congressional District is Frank Kratovil, a Democrat elected in 2008. After state Sen. Andy Harris ousted incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary, Kratovil upset Harris in a close November contest, becoming the first Democrat in 18 years to represent the Republican-leaning district.
|Frank Kratovil (D)||177,065||(49%)||($1,994,553)|
|Andy Harris (R)||174,213||(48%)||($3,024,144)|
|Richard Davis (Lib)||8,873||(2%)|
|Frank Kratovil (D)||28,566||(40%)|
|Christopher Robinson (D)||21,892||(31%)|
|Steve Harper (D)||11,904||(17%)|
|Joseph Werner (D)||8,753||(12%)|
Kratovil (KRAT-o-vill) was born in Lanham, Md. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, northwest of Baltimore, then went to law school in Baltimore. He worked in the city’s public defender’s office during school and after his graduation in 1994, then clerked for the Prince George’s County Circuit Court. In 1997, he was appointed assistant state’s attorney in Queen Anne’s County. In 2002, he was elected state’s attorney for the county, becoming one of the youngest state’s attorneys in Maryland history. He was re-elected in 2006. During his tenure, he was also appointed by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich to the Maryland State Board of Victim Services.
After a brutal Republican primary in February 2008, nine-term incumbent Gilchrest was defeated by Harris. In that campaign, Harris had attacked Gilchrest, a Republican moderate, for voting with Democrats to support a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. He painted Gilchrest as an economic liberal, a claim that was reinforced in advertising by the deep-pocketed Club for Growth, a national anti-tax group. Former Gov. Ehrlich also endorsed Harris over Gilchrest. Harris defeated Gilchrest 43%-33%. The presence of state Sen. E. J. Pipkin, one of three other Republicans in the contest, also worked against Gilchrist, as Pipkin carved out 20% of the vote. Gilchrest called his defeat “a clear sign the party is split between dogma and tolerance,” and refused to call Harris to concede.
Kratovil bested three other candidates in the February Democratic primary, taking 40% of the vote. He entered the general election lagging in the polls and in fundraising, but got considerable help from the Democratic Party and unions. Kratovil portrayed himself as a Gilchrest moderate, campaigning on the need to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and expand access to health care. Gilchrest crossed party lines to use his considerable influence and name recognition in the district to help Kratovil, calling him “a man after my own heart.” He campaigned actively for the Democratic nominee, even appearing in an ad for Kratovil.
Kratovil attacked Harris as a “just way out there” conservative, emphasizing his unwillingness to work with Democrats in the state Senate. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $2 million, mainly on ads attacking Harris for his ties to oil and banking interests and highlighting campaign contributions he’d received from insurance companies. The League of Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union also spent money on Kratovil’s behalf. For his part, Harris worked to tie Kratovil to Democratic liberals such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presidential nominee Barack Obama, calling Kratovil in one ad “clueless, liberal and very wrong.” Harris also labeled him a “big spender.”
On Election Night, Kratovil had a narrow lead of 916 votes, with absentee ballots yet to be counted. A week later, his lead had expanded to 2,852 votes, and Harris conceded. The final result was 49.1% for Kratovil to 48.3% for Harris. The Republican handily won the district’s portions of Baltimore and Harford counties, which he had represented in the state Senate; he also carried Anne Arundel County. Kratovil carried the rest of the district’s counties, with heavy support along the Eastern Shore.
In Washington, Kratovil pledged to be a moderate voice in the Gilchrest mold. On the first major issue before the 111th Congress in 2009, he was one of 11 Democrats to vote against President Obama’s economic-stimulus bill. Kratovil later voted in favor of the revised bill that had passed the Senate, citing its spending cuts and increased focus on infrastructure development. He was one of four Democratic freshmen to join the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, and he received appointments to the Agriculture, Armed Services and Natural Resource committees. In what could shape up to be another close race, Harris announced in March 2009 that he would seek a rematch against Kratovil in 2010.