HAGERSTOWN — Democratic gerrymandering and sparse support from fellow Republicans cost U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett his 6th Congressional District seat, Bartlett said Wednesday in his first interview since the election.
Democrat John Delaney, a Montgomery County financier, defeated the 10-term congressman by 20 percentage points Nov. 6 in a district that changed from majority Republican to majority Democrat after the boundaries were redrawn by the state’s Democratic leaders last year.
“The primary factor, of course, was the 192,000 Democrats and 135,000 Republicans. That’s a very steep hill to climb,” Bartlett said in an interview, referring to the district’s voter registration numbers.
“The gerrymandering and the disparate percentages of Republicans to Democrats are the primary issues” in the election outcome, he said.
But Bartlett, a Frederick County developer, physiologist and farmer, said he still could have won had the National Republican Congressional Committee put some money into his race.
“They had tough choices to make. I think that had they put the money in our race that they put in some other races they lost, that we could have won,” he said. “We just did not have the money to drive the message.”
Although Bartlett raised $1.1 million, his highest total ever, Delaney outspent him 3-to-1. Delaney won even in Washington County, where registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats.
The redrawn district extends from Democrat-heavy Montgomery County to the four westernmost Maryland counties: part of Frederick County and all of Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties. Voter registration in the new district favored Democrats over Republicans, 46 percent to 34 percent, with the remaining 20 percent registered as independent.
Delaney spokesman Will McDonald said the results speak for themselves.
“I think it’s a strong vindication of John’s campaign and his independent message and an indication that he can work with people across these diverse communities,” McDonald said.
Bartlett said the next Republican nominee should be a new face with a strong, pro-business message, and preferably from populous Montgomery County, Delaney’s home turf.
Most of the Republicans who emerged during the primary season, when it appeared Bartlett might retire, are probably too conservative to win in the reconfigured district, he said.
Bartlett said he came very close a year ago to sitting out the race.
“I finally decided to run because a number of people called me and said, ‘You know, it’s going to be a very tough race but if the seat can be held, you have a better chance of holding the seat than anybody else.’ There was nobody who was proffering themselves for the race that I thought had as good a chance as I had of holding the seat,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett said that at 86, he’s not looking for another job. But he said he’d welcome invitations to speak on his favorite topic, energy conservation and the need to replace finite oil reserves with new energy sources.
“With the rise of China and India, and the desire of the present industrialized nations to grow, we’re going to need more oil than is readily available,” Bartlett said. “We’re not running out of oil; what we’re running out of is our ability to produce oil, to pump it as fast as we would like to pump the oil.”