By Glynis Kazanjian
With the filing deadline for Congress a week away, two state Senate Republican leaders are poised to challenge incumbent congressmen, while the state GOP chairman remains unsure.
Today in Frederick, Sen. David Brinkley of Mt. Airy is expected to announce his primary challenge against 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the redrawn 6th Congressional District.
Thursday morning, former Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs of Harford County is expected to launch her campaign against five-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of the 2nd District.
Mooney still unsure
State GOP Chairman Alex Mooney, who has been actively raising money for the race, said he is still unsure about a run in the 6th district. He would like to talk to Bartlett before making a final decision. Mooney launched an exploratory committee for the 6th CD in December after news reports that Bartlett’s chief of staff was secretly soliciting support for a run in case Bartlett didn’t seek re-election.
“I’m still in the maybe category,” Mooney said. “The filing deadline is January 11, and I’ll make my decision before then. I do intend to request a conversation with Congressman Bartlett beforehand to see how ready he is to run and make a decision based on that conversation and other conversations I’ll have with folks around the state.”
Mooney said Bartlett’s fundraising will be telling of his intentions. He noted that the congressman only raised $1,000 in the 3rd quarter (July – September) of 2011 and official fundraising figures wouldn’t be available for another couple of weeks.
Bartlett reported raising money
However, Bartlett Communications Director Lisa Wright, said Bartlett has already raised $300,000 in the past month.
“In the 4th quarter [of 2011], Congressman Bartlett raised more than $300,000,” Wright said. “He raised $150,000 for the redistricting lawsuit – beginning only in December he raised more than $160,000 in pledges for his campaign with $100,000 received.”
Mooney also said he didn’t know why Brinkley wasn’t running in the 8th Congressional District, where Brinkley lives under the district lines passed in October.
Brinkley no longer in 6th District
Brinkley, a Frederick County native, has represented areas of the 6th Congressional District areas as both a delegate and a state senator, but he was cut out of the district after last year’s redistricting process, along with much of Frederick’s population, and put into the 8th District, represented by Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County..
“David Brinkley has lived in the center of the 6th congressional district since the day he was born in Frederick until the governor surgically removed him with his redistricting pen,” said Don Murphy, Brinkley’s campaign communications director and a former delegate.
Other candidates in the race
Other candidates are getting into the race for Congress, the only offices that will be on the ballot this year other than school board seats and Circuit Court judgeships.
Dr. Milad Pooran, an immigrant from Iran, is running against state Sen. Robert Garagiola in the 6th district Democratic primary, where redistricting is also a source of contention. Pooran, a critical-care physician with Veterans Affairs, and a 13-year member of the Air National Guard, had his campaign temporarily put on hold last week as he was deployed on a five-week mission overseas to transport critically wounded service members back to the U.S.
Walter Ludwig, a veteran of congressional campaigns working for Pooran in the race, said the district was intentionally carved for Garagiola.
“It’s pretty well known that Senate President Mike Miller drew the 6th Congressional District for Sen. Garagiola,” Ludwig said.
But Ludwig, who worked with former Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume in a 2006 Senate race and former Rep. Andrew Duck in the old 6th district, said because of Pooran’s background as an immigrant, he will be able to connect with voters in Montgomery County. Pooran came to America when he was 6 years old with his parents, who were looking for a better life, Ludwig said.
“Part of the district added in Montgomery County [in redistricting] is actually very immigrant rich — the highest percentage of foreign born voters, we think, of any district in the country,” Ludwig said.
“In terms of the part that’s been added, Milad has a story to tell them that no other candidates can tell as a candidate,” Ludwig said.
Republican primary could weaken nominee
Todd Ebberly, an assistant professor of political studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said the 6th congressional district could be the most interesting race in the state and that it will likely go to a Democrat.
“If you look at the make up the new district, with 2012 being a presidential election year — which Obama will carry Maryland very comfortably – CD6 probably elects a Democrat,” Ebberly said. “Whenever it comes to redistricting, the party that does redistricting has several objectives.
“Yes, they love to make districts safer for their own party. Yeah, they’d like to make districts a little more competitive so they can challenge a party in power, but the other thing they like to do when they redistrict is set up a situation where it will create ‘within’ party battles that could weaken an incumbent. Because, one of the toughest folks to defeat in an election is an incumbent. You are seeing that play out in the 6th CD.”
“Roscoe Bartlett may not even be the guy on the ballot, but if he does decide to run again, and he does survive, he’s going to survive after having faced a ‘within’ party battle for the nomination,” Ebberly continued. “This could very well weaken him in a district where he’s already going to be weakened by the addition of all those Montgomery County voters. So when Alex Mooney or Robin Ficker, or anyone, are thinking about running against Bartlett to get the nomination, they’re playing right into Democratic hands and weakening their incumbent. That’s just part of the redistricting game plan.”
Brandeon Rippeon is also running in the 6th District Republican primary against Bartlett, as he did last year. Rippeon, self-described as a “real conservative” with a business background, provided a prepared comment on Bartlett’s re-election campaign.
“In 1992 Roscoe Bartlett promised to serve only two terms as part of a self-imposed term limit pledge,” Rippeon said. “He broke that promise and now he is running for an 11th term in the new 6th District. Broken promises from career politicians have steered this country in the wrong direction for too long. After 18 years of Roscoe Bartlett, it’s time to nominate a new candidate with a fresh set of ideas.”
Withstanding any legal challenges, the primary will be held on April 3.