It’s getting so you can’t tell the players in the Maryland’s 6th congressional race without a scorecard.
The Democratic congressional redistricting plan upended Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R) 6th District, transforming it from a safely Republican seat to one that will likely elect a Democrat. The feisty Bartlett, who will be 86 at the time of the next election, defiantly said he would seek an 11th term in 2012 regardless of how his district is drawn. But, is his decision changing?
Earlier in the week, it was reported that the congressman’s chief of staff, Bud Otis, was contacting key opinion leaders, testing the waters for his own run for Congress in the new 6th. He was telling people that he would run only if Mr. Bartlett decided to retire. Just yesterday, however, he resigned his position in order to begin the campaign. For his part, Rep. Bartlett still says he’s running. It appears Otis is, too.
These recent moves have prompted Maryland Republican Party chairman Alex Mooney to also enter the congressional race. Mooney served two terms in the Maryland Senate, but surprisingly went down to defeat in 2010, in the most Republican of years. Mooney previously said he was staying out of the race because of his respect for Bartlett but, he said, upon learning of the developments just described, if Otis is running, then he is too. State Sen. David Brinkley also entered the race, saying he was in regardless of what anyone else decided.
But, that’s not all. Attorney Robin Ficker, a former state Delegate who came to fame as a professional sports heckler, had declared his candidacy several weeks ago. Ficker, a rabid fan of the Washington Bullets/Wizards professional basketball team, used to heckle the visiting teams from behind their bench at the old Cap Centre. During one playoff series, the New York Knicks actually hired Ficker and flew him to Madison Square Garden in order to heckle the Knicks’ opponents. Three other lesser known candidates are also in the Republican field.
The interesting part about all of these Republican maneuverings is that they are likely for naught. Since the new draw brings the western Maryland district all the way into Montgomery County in the Washington, DC suburbs, the seat will most likely elect a Democrat no matter who eventually wins this hotly contested Republican primary.
For their part, the Democrats seem to be having an easier time settling on a contender. State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola has a good chance of becoming a consensus candidate, as other prominent Montgomery County Democratic local officials have decided not to make the race.
If Bartlett decides to move forward with his campaign as he continues to promise, he still could find himself winning the primary, simply because his field of opponents will likely be so large that the anti-incumbent vote will be widely split. Or, is Otis’ entry a clear sign that his long-time boss has actually already decided to forego re-election?
It is clear that redistricting has made Roscoe Bartlett one of the country’s most endangered of Republican congressmen. Therefore, all of these GOP machinations could be much ado about nothing. Unless something drastic occurs, the Republican who finally comes through the nomination morass, will find himself decidedly in the underdog position, even if it is the current incumbent.
As a result of their successful redistricting effort, the Maryland Democrats have made MD-6 one of their best conversion opportunities in the entire country.