The autumn chill isn’t keeping the Republican primary in the 6th Congressional District — still more than four months away — from heating up.
Four GOP primary opponents so far have filed to challenge longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, 85, who has held the seat since 1992.
One of Bartlett’s Republican opponents, Brandon Rippeon, already is airing a TV commercial throughout western Maryland.
“It’s important to get out in front and be a leader on this and introduce myself to people in the district, where I haven’t run before,” said Rippeon, 39, of Darnestown, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council. “I wanted to be the first one out.
“We all love [Bartlett],” he’s done a great job, but we think it’s time for new leadership,” Rippeon added.
Despite the opposition lining up, the incumbent is not worried, said Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright.
“Congressman Bartlett has always had challengers in every election, in every primary,” she said. “That’s not new or different.”
But Bartlett raised just $1,000 in the most recent financial report in a race that is expected to be heavily contested by the eventual Democratic opponent.
“Congressman Bartlett has always been unconventional,” Wright said. “He does not want to be beholden to campaign donors for the decisions he makes because he wants to make the decisions that are best for his country and all the constituents he represents.”
If it survives a pending court challenge, the once-per-decade redistricting means the 6th District, under the recently redrawn boundaries, stretches from rural Garrett County in western Maryland to suburban Montgomery County.
With a large section of Montgomery County added to the district, it has changed from heavily Republican, with just 40 percent of the voters casting ballots for President Barack Obama in 2008, to majority Democratic, with 56 percent of the voters having cast ballots for Obama.
Redistricting efforts essentially made the 6th a new district, said Paul S. Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland.
“Redistricting drew the attention of a lot of politicians to the 6th District and encouraged them to the race because they see Bartlett as vulnerable,” Herrnson said.
As part of that perceived vulnerability, opponents might view Bartlett as someone whose time has come and gone, and “that would apply particularly to the Republican candidates,” Herrnson said.
“He’s had challengers before,” said Maryland GOP Executive Director Justin Reedy, who said the state party does not take sides in primaries.
“In the last race he had several people running against him,” Reedy said. “With the district shake-ups there is renewed interest.”
Rippeon’s advertising buy might seem early, but April primary is closer than it seems, said Trevor Parry-Giles, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
And Richard Vatz, a professor of political rhetoric at Towson University, said of Bartlett, “I’d be very surprised if the challengers got traction, but I can understand why they would begin early to go after his record.”
However, the early attacks against Bartlett, who won re-election in his previous district in 2010 with more than 60 percent of the vote, could swing the race to the Democrats in 2012, Vatz said.
On the Democratic side, Potomac businessman John K. Delaney announced Monday he was forming an exploratory committee to run. State Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown and former Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg previously have said they plan to seek the seat.