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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


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April 2, 2012

For Political Junkies, It Doesn’t Get Any Better

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Trust me, tomorrow really matters. Exercising your rights to vote in a primary election sends the final combatants into a head-to-head battle for the general election.


For Democrats, there’s the congressional elections. Normally a rather staid affair with party favorites easily identifiable on the ballot. That's certainly true on the newly created Eighth District ballot. Incumbent Rep. Christopher Van Hollen has a huge advantage. He is well-known and well-regarded in the areas of the district he represented before the recent redistricting. Further, those voters represent a significant number of the total votes that will be cast, both in the primary and in the general election.


While the ideology represented by Mr. Van Hollen's long voting history seems out-of-step with his new constituents in Frederick and Carroll counties, local Democrats can go to the polls and cast a vote for a recognized superstar and the future of their party.


In the Sixth District, the story is quite different. The favorite to unseat incumbent Republican Roscoe Bartlett has shifted since the fall of last year. State Sen. Rob Garagiola (Montgomery) has always been held in high regard by state and regional Democrats, so much so that his announcement was heralded by a Who's Who from Annapolis.


Local Democrat favorites lined up to jump on the Garagiola bandwagon, from former Del. Sue Hecht to current District 3 Sen. Ron Young. Additionally, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (Calvert) reached out from his office in the State House to anoint his chosen candidate.


So, in December, this one looked like a juggernaut. And then the millionaire spoke.


John Delaney, a Montgomery County venture capitalist, had quietly announced a campaign at the same time Mr. Garagiola did. The Delaney campaign didn't tip its hand too early; they reserved their best shots for the 60 days prior to the primary election.


Examples of these best shots include an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton. Us plain old Frederick County voters aren't used to having heavyweights like a former president endorse a local congressional candidate, so something like that gets our attention.


Imagine what it will do down in Montgomery County!


Another example was the Delaney campaign's decision to go way negative on Senator Garagiola. From calling him out as a paid lobbyist to calling him unethical for failing to disclose past client relationships, Sen. Garagiola has seen his seemingly unstoppable campaign turned upside down in the last two months.


On the GOP side, both congressional races are full of solid candidates offering interesting choices. In the Sixth District, incumbent Representative Bartlett finds himself fighting harder than he's used to in a real primary race.


His opponents, led by State Sen. David Brinkley and State Del. Kathy Afzali, are well-known and willing to work. There are a whole slew of Republicans in that race, and each one of them makes it harder for anyone other than Dr. Bartlett to win. Diffusing the vote among a large number of candidates almost always improves the re-election chances of the incumbent. It's a fact.


In the Eighth District race, it looks like it will come down to two candidates, Ken Timmerman and Dave Wallace.


Mr. Timmerman is well-known in GOP circles as a published writer and pundit. Mr. Wallace seems to be knowledgeable and a very hard working candidate. Mr. Timmerman has some high profile local endorsements, most notably Del. Michael Hough (3B). Mr. Wallace, on the other hand, touts the name of Del. Kelly Shultz (4A).


Not that it matters, but Ms. Schultz lives in the district. Mr. Hough lives in the Sixth District.


Finally, we have the donnybrook over the Board of Education. This one promises to be the race that matters, with the local teacher's union working harder to defeat a handful of voices they don't like than they are working to elect the ones they do like.


A couple of the candidates, Cindy Rose, Colleen Cusimano and former Emmitsburg Mayor Jim Hoover, promise to round out a school board that saw a populist movement swept in during the last election.


Others, most notably incumbents Donna Crook and Katie Groth, promise to maintain the course begun under former Superintendents Jack Dale and Linda Burgee.


It begs an interesting question: Where are the voters of Frederick County? Will a lower tax-hold-the-spending-line argument find favor, or will the worries about losing education gains from the last several years drive pro-union voters to the polls?


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