By Len Lazarick
Labor Day used to be considered the traditional start of the fall election campaign season, but even with the 2014 election a year off and the primary 10 months away, Labor Day weekend was still not too early for candidates to be politicking.
Dan Bongino, last year's Republican U.S. Senate nominee, held a major fundraiser in Frederick County Friday night in what he concedes is "going to be a tough election" to unseat freshman Democratic Congressman John Delaney in the 6th District. But he made no mention of a book he wrote due out in November, which details why he chose to leave the Secret Service and run for office.
The setting was the clubhouse Whiskey Creek Country Club in rural Ijamsville, but Bongino had a different sport on his mind.
"It's not a golf game, it's a boxing major," said the well-conditioned ex-Secret Service agent. "When you stop [fightin’], the other guy is kicking your ass."
"We had to go one more round," Bongino said.
A GOP outsider
He portrays himself as an outsider to the Republican Party establishment in Maryland, as when he introduced Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose. She won a contested race for her position against former state GOP chair Audrey Scott.
"Nicolee is great," and he knows it "because the establishment can't stand her," Bongino said.
After the 2012 election, Bongino said he resented how the Maryland party sent volunteers to help the Mitt Romney campaign in Pennsylvania and Virginia, while offering little help to his race that was being undercut by the independent Rob Sobhani who spent millions of his own money.
But despite the anti-establishment tone, several Republican delegates attended the Bongino event, including House Minority Leader Nic Kipke and Del. Steve Schuh, whom Bongino said he would endorse for Anne Arundel County executive. Several newbie delegate candidates who had been inspired by Bongino also gave the candidate a boost.
Bongino, who once served on the executive protection detail for President Obama, which is the subject of his new book, said that "all [the president] has are good intentions."
"Everybody needs health care, but everybody doesn't need government health care," Bongino said.
The Republican criticized Delaney for supporting a carbon tax that he said is "going to decimate middle class families."
Bongino already has a primary opponent, David Vogt, an ex-Marine who, unlike Bongino and Delaney, actually lives in the 6th Congressional District and has filed for the seat. Vogt, pronounced VOTE, filed Aug. 19, and called on Bongino to take a united front against Delaney.
"Although he campaigned as a political moderate," Vogt said, "Congressman Delaney has repeatedly voted with Democratic leadership for policies that do little to help improve the lives and pocketbooks of Sixth District families, business owners, and hard-working citizens. Economic recovery and job creation in the Sixth District have been held hostage to his unwavering support for the train wreck that is Obamacare, government overreach, and runaway spending.”
In an interview, Bongino said any complaints about his residence in Severna Park, 40 miles outside the district which stretches to the western Maryland mountains, "has really quieted down."
""I'm here all the time," Bongino said.
Asked about his position on a U.S. attack on Syria because of its use of chemical weapons, Bongino said, "I tend to align with the libertarian wing of the party."
National profile and "Life Inside the Bubble" with Obama
In ways, Bongino has more of a national profile than locally. He's been a regular guest on Fox News and other cable programs and on Aug. 22, he guest hosted the Sean Hannity nationally syndicated radio show.
Bongino also has a book due out Nov. 19: "Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away from It All."
The promotional blurb on Amazon says: "Why would a successful, twelve-year Secret Service agent resign his position in the prime of his career to run for political office against all the odds? Why is it that the Washington DC 'Bubble', a haze of lobbyists, cronyists, staff, acolytes, consultants and bureaucrats surrounding the President, creates a 'Bubble' which distorts his view of the world and detaches him from the tragic results of his poor policy choices?
"Finally, why the Fast & Furious scandal, the bombings in Boston and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi are harbingers of what's to come without a bold change in direction."
Sarbanes 'sympathetic with president' on Syria
Talking to the Howard County Democratic Party's annual Labor Day picnic in Columbia, Rep. John Sarbanes said, "I'm sympathetic with the president's instinct on [attacking Syria.]
But "we know you and people across the country are war weary," both "weary and wary" of more foreign military intervention. On Saturday, Obama said he will seek permission from Congress to lead an attack on Syria. Sarbanes said Congress will be debating the issue "24/7" when it returns to Washington next Monday. He said he wanted to hear what constituents thought about the attack on Syria, but he did not say how he would vote.
(Rep. Elijah Cummings, who is also a regular at the Labor Day picnic, was tied up on Capitol Hill in meetings related to Syria, an aide said.)
Sarbanes said the debate on Syria will kick off what already was shaping up to be a difficult fall session with a House of Representatives sharply divided on reducing federal spending, raising the debt ceiling and Obamacare.
He blamed the impasses on a political system "almost completely captured by big money and special interests," and he pushed his own proposal for the Grassroots Democracy Act, that includes tax credits for donations of $50 or less, and matching funds if candidates forego other sources of campaign money.