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A Tale of Two Incumbencies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Margery Elfin
Hood College
Carolyn Kawecki
Hood College


Seven-term representative, Beverly Byron (D) of the Sixth District in Maryland, was the first incumbent to be defeated in the 1992 primaries. Her loss was perceived as a harbinger of major change in Congress, and marked an exception to Fenno's notion that Americans hate Congress yet love their own member of Congress.

Her opponent, Thomas Hattery, fit the pundits' expectations as an agent of change. A young, progressive state legislator, Hattery won by aggressively campaigning against Byron as an out-of-touch incumbent whose lifestyle and views no longer matched those of her district. Yet, his “outsider” persona masked a highly professionalized and well-funded campaign.

Only eight months later, the man who had capitalized on citizen dissatisfaction with Congress went down to defeat by Roscoe Bartlett (R). Bartlett, a successful businessman and educator with no elective experience and highly conservative positions, captured 54% of the vote, including majorities in counties that had given Hattery strong primary support. The tables had turned: Hattery had become the insider whom the historically conservative Sixth District voters repudiated. Paradoxically, although the Sixth District race exemplified change, Bartlett differed little from the previous incumbent.

Research Article
Copyright © The American Political Science Association 1993

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