January 10, 2012

Mooney may be entering race for Congress; Afzali to become sixth legislator to file

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With the filing deadline tomorrow at 9 p.m., state GOP Chairman Alex Mooney Tuesday morning is planning to announce whether he will challenge 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a man for whom he once worked on Capitol Hill.

Alex Mooney

Alex Mooney

Mooney has raised $108,000 so far, and named county chairmen, including freshmen state Dels. Neil Parrott and Michael Hough.

Mooney refused to tell reporters his decision Monday night, but said Bartlett would not be at the announcement in Frederick.

Freshman Republican Del. Kathy Afzali of Frederick County said she will file for Congress Tuesday morning, though she was coy about which district she would be running in. She lives in the newly redrawn 8th Congressional District now represented by Democrat Chris Van Hollen, and has filed to run as a Republican convention delegate from that district.

“I think I’m electable with this huge district,” Afzali said. “This clearly was a map made in Washington.”

“We need to get back to the basics of the free market and the power of the individual,” Afzali said.

She would be the sixth member of the legislature getting into congressional races. State lawmakers can run for Congress this year without giving up their seats in the legislature.

The entry of Mooney, who lost his bid for reelection to the state Senate in 2010, would create a crowded field of six Republicans seeking to unseat Bartlett — including Sen. David Brinkley, who filed last week. More state senators and delegates have signed on for Brinkley’s campaign.

Del. Kathy Afzali

On the Democratic side in the 6th, state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola of Gaithersburg is running in a field of four candidates. The district now includes a large chunk of Montgomery County and Garagiola’s legislative district.

In the 2nd Congressional District that includes parts of Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, Republican state Sen. Nancy Jacobs hopes to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger.

“I’m not a Washington insider, and I will never be a Washington insider,” said Jacobs, echoing the anti-incumbent theme embraced by congressional candidates of both parties.

“I’m not one of those people who goes to Washington and becomes Washington,” said Jacobs. “Dutch became Washington.”

Ruppersberger scoffed when asked about Jacobs’ comments at the annual conference of the Maryland Association of Counties, an organization served as president of  when he was Baltimore County executive. “Did I forget my roots? I’ll stand by my roots.”

“I’m upset about what’s going on in Congress,” Ruppersberger said. “It’s wrong.”

Another Republican, Del. Pat McDonough of Baltimore County, looked at a race against Ruppersberger. He said with the newly redrawn congressional lines, “they made this district a little tougher,” for a Republican, going from 62% for Obama in 2008 to 64% with the new lines.

Ruppersberger agreed. The redistricting “helped me,” he said, and made the district more Democratic.

“This district is an uphill battle,” McDonough said. He plans on devoting the year to overturning the law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, and will not endorse Jacobs.

In the 5th Congressional District, House of Delegates Republican Leader Tony O’Donnell hopes to challenge U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

In the race for U.S. Senate, state Sen. Anthony Muse said he will challenge U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, but Muse has yet to officially file for the seat with the state Board of Elections or the Federal Election Commission.

—Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com