By Sam Smith
Maryland’s 8th Congressional District is no longer the progressive bastion it once was. The district that used to be confined to the liberal walls of suburban Montgomery County, now includes much more conservative constituents in Frederick and Carroll counties.
Many of the district’s new voters are unhappy with the redistricting because gerrymandering causes them to lose Republican Roscoe Bartlett as their congressman.
Republican candidate Ken Timmerman is contesting Democrat incumbent Chris Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee member, for the seat. Timmerman has spent much of the year touring the newest parts of the district listening to the concerns of the constituents.
Timmerman finds angry constituents in Carroll and Frederick
“I can tell you the people in Carroll County and Frederick County are angry that they have been thrown in with Montgomery County,” Timmerman said. “That’s a huge hurdle for them to get over, and I think it is very important to have a representative who understands that there are very different needs and very different values from the values of Takoma Park.”
Timmerman, 58, is known for his work as an investigative reporter in the Middle East and is the former president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association. CORRECTED: Timmerman won the Republican primary election with 46
42% of the votes and calls Kensington his home, as does Van Hollen.
Although Van Hollen went on a listening tour of the newest parts of the district in September that took him to Westminster, Emmitsburg, Frederick and Middletown, Timmerman said that Van Hollen has not spent enough time in those places to acclimate himself to the concerns they have.
“First of all, my opponent just doesn’t show up. He does not go to Frederick County, does not go to Carroll County,” Timmerman said. “There was a front-page story in the Frederick News Post about him touting this great listening tour that he is making in Frederick County,”
“I have been going back and forth to Carroll County and Frederick County almost daily since the beginning of January.”
Republican says Van Hollen doesn’t know new parts of district
State Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, said he agrees that Van Hollen has not done enough to get to know the people of Frederick and Carroll counties, where many people are concerned that Van Hollen will not represent their interests fairly. CORRECTION: Brinkley lives in the 8th district, but ran for Congress against Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the 6
“He’s done drive-bys. He doesn’t know the district. The people of the district don’t know him,” Brinkley said. “They don’t like his voting record and Chris isn’t happy with the redistricting. He can’t be. He was left out to dry. It is what it what is, there is just not a lot in common that the communities share and it’s a crime.”
“The redistricting put two diametrically opposed communities together in the same district. I think there is a lot of resentment about it.”
After weeks of Timmerman claiming that Van Hollen was “ducking debates”, the two had their first debate on Sept. 28 in Gaithersburg sponsored by the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. Their next debate is scheduled for Oct. 14 at the B’nai Israel congregation in Rockville.
Conservatives unhappy with Van Hollen’s voting record
Brinkley said the majority of his district, which includes parts of both Frederick and Carroll counties, is anti-administration, anti-Obama. The fact that Van Hollen has been tied in heavily with the president’s agenda has made it easy for Timmerman to jab him about the United States being over $15 trillion in debt.
“Nancy Pelosi and Chris Van Hollen were in charge as of 2007 and they are the ones who signed off on these trillion dollar budget deficits,” Timmerman said. “I think we got to get our fiscal house in order and get government out of the way.”
Timmerman is quick to remind people that Van Hollen was a part of the congressional “supercommittee” that was responsible for creating a 10-year deficit reduction plan. However partisan disagreements prevented that from being passed. If a deficit reduction plan is not created by Jan. 1, deep spending cuts to federal agencies known as “sequestration” will be made.
Timmerman said that he would like to see 1% budget cuts across the board in real spending, but doesn’t think any more should be taken from the defense budget after $500 billion was cut over 10 years.
“Defense has been cut already at about 9%. You have to start cutting every other federal agency equally,” Timmerman said. “They have to be cut equally across the board so that we have a negative spending curve. We need to actually look at a real spending cut.”
Now that there are 20 small municipalities included in the district, Timmerman said he understands the importance of growing small businesses and local economies. Like most conservatives, Timmerman is in favor of limiting federal restrictions so that these businesses can prosper.
“Government does not create jobs, but government does stifle job creation and thats what we’ve had for the last four years,” Timmerman said. “Let small businesses get back to work and let them create jobs and we will see economic growth.”
With so much farmland at stake in Carroll and Frederick counties, Timmerman criticized Van Hollen for supporting the elimination of direct aid to farmers as a sequestration alternative. During the first debate, Van Hollen said that proposal had bipartisan support and would not affect Maryland farmers because not many Maryland farmers received those subsidies anyways.
Timmerman struggling to reach liberal vote
Although Timmerman is relying on support from the conservative regions, the toughest votes for him will be in his home county. Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Takoma Park, said that the most of the constituents in Montgomery County are happy with Van Hollen. She also said that Timmerman has not done enough to reach out to voters in Montgomery County.
“He hasn’t been very successful in raising enough attention to this area,” Mizeur said. “I haven’t seen anything about him anywhere. You don’t see his signs anywhere, you don’t see anything in the paper written about him.”
Timmerman’s lack of visibility reflects his lack of campaign resources. Third quarter reports are due next week to the Federal Election Commission, but as of June 30, Timmerman had raised $103,000 and had just $54,000 in the bank and Van Hollen, former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had raised $2.2 million, with $1 million cash on hand.
Redistricting referendum is key, Afzali says
No matter who wins the election, the redistricting referendum might be the most important aspect of the 2012 election for the voters in Carroll and Frederick counties, said Del. Kathy Afzali, R- Frederick, who also ran and lost for Bartlett’s seat.
“The bottom line is when all is said and done, it ain't over,” Afzali said. “No matter who wins the congressional races, we are hoping that the people of Maryland throw out this congressional map and call it what it is. It’s a disgrace.”
Afzali said she plans on introducing a bill mandating redistricting in Maryland to be done by nonpartisan commissions taking into account demographics without partisan influence.
“It is extremely confusing for the population and I think it is detrimental,” Afzali said. “The mantra I hear is why do people feel so disconnected, why don’t people show up to vote. Then they go and draw a map like this and wonder why people are so disconnected.”