WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett defeated seven Republican primary challengers Tuesday and will face Democratic businessman John Delaney in the fall in what is expected to be a hotly contested House race.
Preliminary election results show Bartlett with 44 percent of the vote with 87 percent of precincts reporting. State Sen. David Brinkley was second with 20 percent.
Western Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, a longtime GOP stronghold, was reshaped by Democratic state lawmakers during redistricting to make it competitive for the first time since Bartlett won the western Maryland seat in 1992. The redrawn district added a large piece off Democrat-heavy Montgomery County to the four westernmost Maryland counties.
The conservative Bartlett said he had hoped to face Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola in the general election because Garagiola’s support for tax increases would have made for an easy target.
Bartlett, a millionaire physicist, farmer and developer, said he and Delaney both rose from humble roots to achieve success in the private sector.
“We have a lot of similarities. The one thing that’s different is that I’m older and therefore wiser,” said Bartlett, 85.
The five-way Democratic race was dominated by a clash between Delaney, founder of commercial lender CapitalSource Inc., and Garagiola, who was endorsed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Preliminary results showed Delaney with 54 percent of the vote with 87 percent of precincts reporting. Garagiola, who conceded shortly before 11 p.m., had 28 percent.
Delaney said in a statement he was pleased about the primary results and looking forward to the general election Nov. 6.
“We’re extremely excited about tonight’s result and look forward to the general election,” he said. “We’ve talked about job growth, reform, and standing up for the middle class. Now, we’re going to take the message to Democrats, independents, and Republicans.”
Delaney campaigned on his record of creating thousands of jobs. He far outraised and outspent Garagiola, putting nearly $1.4 million of his own money into a campaign portraying himself as a “progressive businessman.”
Garagiola spokesman Andrew Platt said the outcome of the Democratic race mainly reflected Delaney’s deep pockets.
“Being outspent 3-to-1 is a statement in and of itself,” he said.
“We are disappointed but we do want this seat to become a Democratic seat,” Platt said.
Five House Democrats nominated for re-election
In Maryland’s other House races, five Democratic incumbents were nominated for re-election:
-3rd District Rep. John Sarbanes will seek a fourth term against an undetermined Republican opponent in a race too close to call early Wednesday.
-4th District Rep. Donna Edwards will seek a third term against Republican Faith Loudon, a retired chemical laboratory worker.
-5th District Rep. Steny Hoyer will seek a 17th term against Republican Tony O’Donnell, the outspoken minority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates.
-7th District Rep. Elijah Cummings will seek a ninth term against Republican landscape designer Frank Mirabile.
-8th District Rep. Chris Van Hollen will seek a 6th term against Republican Ken Timmerman, a religious-freedom advocate.
First District freshman Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s only other Republican House member, was uncontested in the primary. His Democratic opponent was undetermined in a race too close to call early Wednesday.
Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger was uncontested in the 2nd District primary. He will seek a sixth term against Republican state Sen. Nancy Jacobs.
But the most closely watched contests involved the redrawn 6th District represented by Bartlett.
Republican Ron Frost, a retired IBM inventory-control specialist from Hagerstown, said he cast his vote for Bartlett, partly because he thinks he’s honest.
During the campaign, “I felt like he was telling me the truth more than the other people were,” Frost said. “There have been some things said about him that I know are lies. Once a person lies to me about something, I can’t trust them after that.”
Republican Evelyn Edwards, 86, a retired housewife from Urbana, also voted for Bartlett.
“He’s an elderly man but he’s been around long enough to know what’s going on,” she said.
Bartlett’s strongest challenger was Brinkley. He claimed Bartlett hadn’t lived up to his conservative talking points, citing Bartlett’s August vote in favor of raising the U.S. debt limit by $2.1 trillion in exchange for an equivalent amount in spending cuts.
Bartlett says he voted for what he called “a very bad bill” to avoid a default on U.S. debt obligations. The congressman said his critics don’t understand the complexity of bills that sometimes require him to cast votes that apparently contradict his views.
Their generally civil contest turned nasty Saturday when a group that called itself Victory for Bartlett emailed to the district’s registered Republicans clips of 911 police recordings from a 2008 domestic disturbance between Brinkley and his wife, who have since divorced. Brinkley’s campaign called the email “a pathetic act of desperation.” Bartlett’s camp denied any role in the tactic.
‘If he makes people angry, he must be doing something right’
Democrat Marty Geier, a 37-year-old software engineer from Germantown, said he cast a strategic vote for Delaney over Garagiola.
“I actually really like Rob but I want him here in the state…” Geier said.
And he said Delaney, who raised and spent much more than Garagiola during the campaign, seems better equipped to defeat a Republican in the general election.
“He seems to be really gung ho and he’s good at raising money. He seems to be good at campaigning and I’m less certain of that for Rob. And that seems to be more important for the U.S. races.”
In addition to having O’Malley’s support, Garagiola won endorsements from Hoyer and organized labor. He started the race as the perceived favorite because the redrawn district includes a large chunk of heavily Democratic Montgomery County, where Garagiola lives.
Delaney gained momentum with endorsements from former President Bill Clinton, Democratic state Comptroller Peter Franchot and Rep. Edwards.
In an exchange of attacks, Delaney painted Garagiola as an opportunistic political climber in league with the Washington lobbyists for whom Garagiola once worked and who also backed the state senator’s candidacy. Garagiola countered by calling Delaney a “loan shark” whose company preyed on working families during the recession.
Democratic voter Richard Grassby, a retired business historian from Funkstown, said he favored Delaney because anti-Delaney forces had attacked so viciously.
“I figure if he makes people that angry, he must be doing something right,” said Grassby, 76.