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October 21, 2011

Dogs of Political Wars

Roy Meachum

Out of Mark Anthony’s mouth, Shakespeare wrote: “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.” Gov. Martin O’Malley did not say those exact words, but in gerrymandering the 6th Congressional District of Maryland the effect was the same. (By the way, “Havoc” was a military command in the Bard’s day, equivalent to “Attack.”)


All Frederick County is divided into two parts, which twirls the local political world merrily on its axis; if you’re 10-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and his staff omit “merrily.” With its outstanding majority in the state, Democrats nominated him to receive the shaft by bringing a generous share of liberal Montgomery County residents into “his” district. Two weeks ago my column dealt with the dreary future he faced; I blamed his chief of staff.


Harold F. (Bud) Otis, Jr., “protected” the congressman by restricting access to his boss. After these years of Mr. Otis in the job, the single qualification I found was he shared membership in the Seventh Day Adventist church. My attempts to warn Congressman Bartlett of his distancing from the electorate were waved off, and I tried a couple of times.


This week in The Frederick News-Post, the Allegany County Conservative Caucus made the same charge. They endorsed another man for Roscoe’s job. It was the third favorable nod that Joseph Krysztoforski received; he was approved both by the state Conservative and Independent caucuses. Allegany’s Mary Mittenberger was quoted in the story written by News-Post reporters Meg Tully and Bethany Rodgers:


“People are saying we think it’s time for (Bartlett) to retire. He’s been a good congressman up to a point. Recently we’ve seen too much staff influence and control of what he does.”


But former state Sen. Alex Mooney naturally disagreed. Now chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, since Democrat Ron Young dumped him out of office last November, Mr. Mooney spoke for his new group: “We’re 100 percent behind (Bartlett’s) re-election efforts.” But part of the three-term senator’s defeat must be attributed to his overt ambition to take over the office where he first reported after his Dartmouth graduation. His juvenile behavior with Del. Joseph Bartlett reminded me of the comics’ Katzenjammer Kids, as I wrote.


In any event, my October 11 column, “Killing Roscoe Bartlett,” pointed out a similar problem with the congressman. The column said: “Despite the wholesale scalping GOP candidates enjoyed in 2010, (the representative) staggered on to victory over “gimme” competition…with the smallest percentage he enjoyed over five elections.” His opponent was Jennifer Dougherty, who lost five ballots and achieved Frederick City Hall when local politics were in much disarray, in 2001.


Most readers don’t recognize Joe Krysztoforski’s name, although he declared his candidacy March 17, 2011, (St. Patrick’s Day) — exactly one year and two weeks before the Maryland primaries for both parties. Many potential candidates waited until the 10-year redistricting was out the way, particularly in this part of the state. Roscoe Bartlett’s best hopes lie with the courts, federal or state, depending entirely — my editor said — where the lawsuit to appeal the Annapolis decision lands. The quoted odds of overturning are slim to none.


To end this column with another quote seems fair and just. British writer Alexander Pope is credited with “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” — which is how politicians are born.


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