By Glynis Kazanjian
Political newcomer John Delaney pummeled Democratic favorite state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola in the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary 54% to 29%. Delaney now advances to the general election where he will square off with Republican primary winner, 10-term Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.
The election will likely go down as the most poorly attended Maryland primaries in the last 30 years, with only 20%of voters showing up at the polls including early voting — only 14% in Montgomery and Prince George’s County.
Bartlett easily won his primary defeating state Sen. David Brinkley 43% to 19%, but taking on Delaney this fall will be a much harder fight, especially considering Delaney’s personal wealth. By the end of the primary, Delaney had donated $1.7 million to his campaign.
University of Virginia Center for Politics professor and political analyst Larry Sabato, who ranks congressional races through his Crystal Ball program, ranks Maryland’s 6th Congressional District election a toss-up, but predicts Bartlett will have a tough time in the newly gerrymandered district.
Called a toss-up in general election
“Bartlett is a pretty conservative Republican,” said Sabato spokesman Geoff Skelling. “He joined the Tea Party Caucus as soon as it was formed. The former 6th District was very Republican, but is now pretty well gerrymandered, and a district that Obama received 56% of the vote in. If Bartlett were a moderate, then perhaps he would have a pretty good shot at hanging around. We have it listed it as a toss-up because you don’t ever like to count out incumbents, but I think he has something of an uphill battle.”
This January Bartlett’s seat was placed in an incumbent protection program by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Now that the primary is over, the NRCC will continue to work with Bartlett to see him through the general.
“Congressman Bartlett is clearly going to be a priority of ours,” NRCC spokesman Nat Sillin said. “A large part of his success will depend on his ability to introduce himself to and earn the votes of Democrats in Montgomery County. The fact that the seat was redrawn by Democrats in Annapolis to have a Democrat hold the seat, the seat has shifted 15 points.”
Dr. Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is a little more optimistic of Bartlett’s chances because of pending state referendums that he believes will drive voter turnout.
Referendums may affect outcome
“What everybody has to keep in mind is there are going to be at least two and now possibly three high profile ballot initiatives that are going to turn out conservative and Republican voters,” Eberly said. “It is unparalleled in Maryland history. We don’t know what that will do. In the 6th Congressional District it boosts Bartlett’s chances of being reelected.”
Delaney will have the opposite goal of gaining more Republican votes and both candidates will vie for independents, a constituency that makes up 21% of voters in the new 6th. After redistricting, the district is now home to 183,868 Democrats, 142,026 Republicans and 86,937 unaffiliated voters.
“I want to reach out not only to Democrats, but to Republicans and independents too because I think we have so much in common,” Delaney said during his victory speech. “Maybe to some small measure the Democratic primary in Maryland 6th District will teach us it doesn’t have to be politics as usual.”
Garagiola conceded in a phone call to Delaney at 10:30 pm. During his victory speech, Delaney spent most of his time thanking volunteers, staffers and his family. The campaign was so optimistic about a win, they flew in Delaney’s daughter from college to attend the celebration.
The Bartlett campaign issued the following comment following the announcement of Bartlett’s victory:
“The race for the Sixth District Republican Primary has been called and the outcome reaffirms what I have always known; that the great wisdom in our country comes from we the people, not the powers that be in Annapolis. I am even more confident of victory in November because voting for my Democratic opponent is a vote for Obama’s and Pelosi’s liberal policies which are bankrupting our government and killing American jobs,” said the Bartlett statement.