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December 6, 2011

The Sixth District Part Two

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

In Part One posted yesterday, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's chief of staff, Bud Otis, revealed that his political aspirations trump his loyalty to his employer. Former State Sen. Alex Mooney seems intent to seize upon this moment of confusion to jumpstart his own campaign for Congress.


If not Mr. Otis or Mr. Mooney, what about – gasp – a Democrat?


A Democrat wouldn't only be worse, a Democrat from this new district would be much worse. The concerns of this district, issues like the struggling agricultural economy, complex transportation issues, rapid suburban growth and public education challenges would take a back seat to the portion of the district that actually voted for a Democratic Party representative.


Using the U.S. Senate seats as a model, we would only see our Democrat congressman around election time. Our two U.S. senators spend the bulk of their face time in places like Prince George’s County and Baltimore. Why bother trying to appease the Republicans when you can solidify your base and strengthen your re-election by ignoring them?


The new district was drawn to favor a Democrat, more specifically, a Democrat like State Sen. Rob Garagiola (D., Montgomery).


Mr. Garagiola is young, smart, and loyal, a political trifecta in Maryland Democratic Party politics. In fact, the loyalty bit is the true value-add to the O'Malley gang.


Mr. Garagiola held his campaign kick-off events before the gerrymandered map ink was dry. In truth, he could have held his announcement before the map was approved, as the adoption of whatever map Gov. Martin O'Malley presented to the General Assembly was never in any doubt.


At his kick-off event in Frederick, Senator Garagiola introduced his campaign treasurer, former Frederick County Del. C. Sue Hecht. Delegate Hecht held the distinction of serving as a state representative twice, her service being interrupted to challenge State Sen. Alex Mooney.


In the ugliest local political race in anyone's memory, Ms. Hecht was sent packing by a well-financed negative campaign run by Mr. Mooney. In truth, Ms. Hecht's effort was also a bottom-barrel job.


Sue had some problems, though. While Frederick City voters liked her very liberal policy positions, she would never have won a head-to-head contest in a more conservative district. She may help the Garagiola campaign with Democrats in Frederick, but she can't open doors in more conservative areas.


So, where does that leave us?


The rumor mill is also rife with word of another GOP exploratory committee for the 6th District seat. State Sen. David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) is pulling together a team and gearing up for a go, without regard to the plans of the incumbent.


Seen as a politically risky move in the past (just ask Scott Rolle), the stars have aligned for Mr. Brinkley thanks to his own popularity, a gerrymandered map, lackluster incumbent fundraising and a growing sense within the GOP electorate that Congressman Bartlett has seen better days.


Why David Brinkley? That might be the easiest question of all.


Senator Brinkley is smart. Smarter than almost all of the 47 member state Senate, David is respected on both sides of the aisle. When the GOP was fumbling with how to fight the O'Malley tax plan, David and Sen. E. J. Pipken (R., Eastern Shore) burned the midnight oil to craft a well-designed GOP alternative.


Senator Brinkley was initially chosen to serve on the influential Budget & Taxation Committee and has been appointed to the most significant and controversial workgroups and task forces in the last nine years.


His work pattern and habits are the same regardless of the issue.


He studies a problem. He opens up channels of communication to a wide range of thought, including ideas from people who might not align exactly with his own thinking. He communicates with staff, advocacy groups and subject matter experts. Finally, in a rare step that reflects an entirely different approach to legislative decision-making than the others who aspire to the U.S. Congress, David communicates with voters, people who might not otherwise be able to access the halls of power in Annapolis.


This is exactly what we've been missing so far. A principled, intelligent and energetic voice that can argue like hell when the need arises, Senator Brinkley can offer a thoughtful counter proposal aimed at solutions, not just rhetoric.


Imagine the true power of a federal legislator from our district with a deep understanding of people and process, one who is as comfortable on the back of a trail horse in western Maryland as he is quoting from the House Rules of Order in the midst of a floor fight.


Is David Brinkley perfect? Nope, he's not. When did we ever expect perfection from a politician?


Besides, if perfection were our standard, where would that leave Alex Mooney, Bud Otis, or Roscoe Bartlett? Alex Mooney will follow his past pattern. Expect to be inundated with vile and disgusting political advertising. It's all he knows, and pretty much all he'll have.


Don't expect solutions to our nation's most vexing problems from Alex. Those things are beyond his intellectual reach. If he can't blame it on someone – or scare you about it – he'll have exhausted every arrow in his quiver.


Sen. David Brinkley offers Sixth District voters their first viable alternative to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in almost 20 years. In a General Election, the distinctions are even clearer.


As evidence of Senator Brinkley's support, a cursory examination of his Exploratory Committee leadership includes several high profile state GOP elected officials, including Sen. George Edwards (R, Garrett), Del. LeRoy Myers (R, Allegany/Washington), Del. Kelly Schultz (R., Frederick) and most notably, Sen. E. J. Pipken (R, Eastern Shore). Senator Pipken is singled out for his service as the minority leader in the Maryland Senate.


The pure political calculus is more complex. If Senator Mooney, Congressman Bartlett or Bud Otis and Senator Brinkley are all in the primary race together, it probably benefits David Brinkley. Alex and Roscoe/Bud would fight one another over the most conservative voters in the primary, pretty much leaving the rest for Mr. Brinkley.


Sen. Rob Garagiola is a strong supporter of the Dream Act; he favors tuition assistance for illegal immigrants. He supports banning the ownership of certain classes of guns, a political position antithetical to most Sixth District voters. In fact, on almost every issue of importance, Rob Garagiola is totally out-of-step politically with mainstream Sixth District residents in Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett County.


We can get this one right for a change. It remains to be seen whether we will or not.


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