Mountain politics more elevated and bipartisan

Democratic congressional candidate John Delaney, left, shares a laugh with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and his wife Ellen.

CUMBERLAND — It’s not just the topography that’s elevated in the mountains of Western Maryland. The politics seems to be as well, or at least more bipartisan.

At the official dedication of the monument to the 200th anniversary of the start of the National Road in Cumberland Sunday afternoon, the Democrats praised the Republicans, and the Republicans followed suit.

“It’s great to be here with my colleague Roscoe Bartlett,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin in his speech. At a Hagerstown picnic before the event and a dinner speech afterward, Democrat Cardin urged his listeners to replace Republican U.S. Bartlett with Democrat John Delaney. After the ceremony, Delaney and Bartlett and his wife got into a friendly conversation.

Republican Mike McKay, president of the Allegany County Board of County Commissioners, lavished praise on Democratic Mayor Brian Grim.

Republican State Sen. George Edwards got an inadvertent promotion to U.S. senator. Two hours later, both Edwards and McKay attended and were introduced at the Allegany County Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, the annual Democratic Party event.

Edwards even took out a full page in the program, as did the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners, sandwiched among the union ads that dominated the booklet. Master of ceremonies Bill DuVall, who lost a race for commissioner in 2010, introduced the GOP officeholders, and the union representatives who were as numerous as the elected officials.

Sen. George Edwards

Cardin praised Edwards, “Once he wins that office, he leaves that party label at home.” And Cardin, a Democrat seeking re-election to the Senate, also praised McKay for “working across party lines.”

“That’s the type of representation we need in Congress,” Cardin said.

It was all fairly unusual compared to the highly partisan dinners in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Members of the opposition party are seldom present, and certainly no elected officials cross dinner party lines.

By Annapolis standards, Edwards is a moderate, one of the few Republicans who still vote for the governor’s budget, though he generally votes against tax increases and with his party on many other issues.

–Len Lazarick