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November 3, 2006

Will Democrats Gain? - Part IV

George Wenschhof

The last two local races for discussion here before the election on Tuesday are for state's attorney and for our representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republican Roscoe Bartlett is the incumbent congressman in District 6 and is opposed by Democrat Andrew Duck and Green Party candidate Robert Kosak.

Mr. Kosak received some notoriety when he protested being left off a forum at a retirement center. Other than that frustrating experience, he has had difficulty getting his message out.

The geographical boundaries of the 6th District stretch over seven northern-tier Maryland counties. They include Harford, part of Baltimore, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, Garrett and part of Montgomery. This district has always been known as a moderate to conservative region and the redistricting in 2002 resulted in voter registration being overwhelmingly Republican.

Some speculate that this Maryland redistricting was designed to strengthen Democrat voter registration in six of the eight congressional districts while the other two districts, (western Maryland and the eastern shore), became heavily Republican. This would then aid in the ability to have Democrats fill six of the eight congressional seats in Maryland.

The last Democrat to serve the 6th District was the well liked and very effective Beverly Byron, who served from 1979 to 1993 after her husband Goodloe, himself a four term congressman, passed away while jogging along the C&O Canal. Ms. Byron was defeated in the primary election in 1992 by Delegate Thomas Hattery. This primary was filled with what many felt at the time were negative and mean spirited attacks by Mr. Hattery against Congressman Byron.

Although Mr. Hattery won the primary, the results were a bruised, battered, and split Democratic Party that did not unite around him in the general election; and for the first time in over 22 years a Republican, Roscoe Bartlett, was elected. Some speculate that the Democratic Party has been split ever since with many different factions. Fielding a candidate with the ability to bring the warring groups together has proved difficult.

Mr. Duck has received endorsements from many Democrats. They range from U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, to Casper "Cas" Taylor, former Maryland House Speaker, to local City of Frederick Alderman David "Kip" Koontz, and former Frederick mayors Jennifer Dougherty and Ron Young. He has also been endorsed by the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO, the Maryland State Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

With a strong military background that included time spent in Iraq, Mr. Duck has campaigned for over a year - reaching out and getting to know the voters in the District 6. His platform includes developing more energy independence, fixing our health care system, and charting a new course in Iraq.

Representative Bartlett was little known to district voters when he ran against Mr. Hattery in 1992 and became well-known by standing at busy road intersections and waving to passersby. He would do this in early morning and evening rush hour periods.

Today, many candidates schedule "waves. He won that election and six more prior to this year's election, even though - upon winning the election in 1992 - Dr. Bartlett publicly stated his support for term limits.

He is now 80 years old and the younger Republican office holders are chomping at the bit awaiting his retirement so that they can then compete for this seat. They feel they have little chance defeating the incumbent. One exception was Republican Scott Rolle, Frederick County State's Attorney, who ran and was defeated easily in the last primary election.

This race has been marked by the noticeably absent Mr. Bartlett at political forums and other crowd-generating events. All the while, Mr. Duck has been campaigning hard to generate interest among the voters. In spite of Congressman Bartlett's inactivity, any Democrat faces an uphill battle to win this race after the redistricting in 2002.

In the 1996 race against Congressman Bartlett, Democrat Stephen Crawford raised and spent over $300,000 and received 43% of the vote in his losing effort. No other Democrat candidate either before or after Mr. Crawford has raised as much money or received as high a percentage of the vote against Dr. Bartlett. Can you name the last seven Democratic candidates for this office? (Answers are at the end of this column).

Although he has had three campaign managers, Andrew Duck has made this race very competitive. It will be a much closer race than many anticipate.

The race for Frederick County state's attorney has Republican Charles Smith facing Democrat William "Bill" Poffenbarger. Incumbent Republican Scott Rolle is running for Maryland attorney general and has given his support to Mr. Smith. Both of these candidates have strong legal backgrounds and are well qualified for this position.

There was an excellent interview conducted by Michael O'Connor of Adelphia Cable 10 and a well run Forum hosted at Frederick Community College. Otherwise, this race has not received much attention. Both of these programs are being rebroadcast prior to the election and I would encourage readers to watch.

Mr. Smith has been a prosecutor for many years and wants the position currently held by his boss, Mr. Rolle.

Mr. Poffenbarger has experience as a prosecutor early in his career before beginning a long and successful law practice as a defense attorney. He is well respected in the legal community and his experience gives him added insight that would aid him as the state's attorney.

Both of these candidates have strong support in the community and have run good campaigns. This race is too close to call and there is a strong possibility for the Democrats to register a gain here.

I started this four part review of the local elections with the question, "Will Democrats Gain?" Presently only three of the 21 positions up for election are filled by Democrats. I have come to realize - and gain appreciation for - the effort that all the candidates have put forth.

With the nation-wide pendulum swing toward Democrats, some pick ups in Frederick County are expected. The races that have the best chance for a Democrat pick-up is an Orphans Court judge, a third seat on the Board of County Commissioners, a second state delegate in District 3-A, and state's attorney.

However, for the first time in many years, Democrat candidates are competitive up and down the ballot and are offering a real choice for voters.

When you go to the polls the best question to ask yourself prior to casting your vote is "Will Frederick County and its Residents Profit?" if this candidate is elected.

Make sure you vote on November 7.

The answer to the question above is: The last seven Democratic candidates for Congress in District 6 were Thomas Hattery-1992, Paul Muldowney-1994, Stephen Crawford-1996, Timothy McCown-1998, Don DeArmon-2000 and 2002, and Kenneth Bosley-2004.

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