First-term state Del. Kathy Afzali was so angry over the redrawn Congressional districts she said “ripped my community in half,” that she jumped into the 6th District congressional race, saying she has the best chance of beating a Democrat in November.
The Republican from Middletown sent a shock wave through an already crowded primary campaign Tuesday not only by filing for the seat, but by declaring that the two most well-known Republicans vying for the position, incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett of Buckeystown and state Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market, cannot win.
“I don't think they [Bartlett and Brinkley] can win against a Democratic challenger from Montgomery County. I can win. I am a tireless campaigner and this race will be nose-to-nose and requires someone with fortitude,” Afzali (R-Dist. 4A) said.
Brinkley, who has served in the Maryland General Assembly since 1994, formally announced his candidacy for Congress on Jan. 4.
Afzali hopes that voters will take stock of her own background, which she says is “pretty clean.”
“Some of the candidates have personal issues that the Dems are going to use to the maximum. ... It could be an ugly and dangerous race,” Afzali said. “... Anyone running for election is going to be scrutinized. ... As for my personal life, I am pretty clean.”
Brinkley's affair with a staffer in 2008 and subsequent divorce may play a part in the election, but according to Don Murphy, a former state delegate and Brinkley's campaign chairman, that battle has been fought and won.
“David has moved on, his wife has moved on, and the voters have moved on. They proved that in the last election,” Murphy said. Brinkley handily won reelection in 2010.
Republican opponents also have raised the issue of Brinkley's residence — pointing out that the lawmaker no longer lives in the 6th District under a newly redrawn congressional map. Brinkley lives in the 8th Congressional District.
Brinkley was excluded from the district because he has the best chance of beating a Democratic challenger for the 6th District seat, according Murphy.
“We wear it as a badge of honor that he [Brinkley] was intentionally carved out. They know he'd be very hard to beat,” Murphy said.
Brinkley believes District 6 voters do not care if he lives in District 8.
“I don't think it is a big deal because there are enough Republicans livid about what happened with redistricting,” Brinkley said. “… the biggest issue is to keep Nancy Pelosi out as Speaker of the House … and Democrats get a leg up if Roscoe Bartlett wins the primary.”
Afzali, who was elected in 2010, has not been shy about speaking out on issues, regardless of her relative inexperience.
“I mean no disrespect, but everything has its season and its time and it is time for him [Bartlett] to pass the torch and let the next leaders in,” Afzali said.
Her entry into the race came as a surprise to her colleagues, including Brinkley.
“She blindsided everybody,” he said of Afzali's candidacy. “I don't know if this helps or hurts. That remains to be seen.”
For now, Murphy said, Brinkley is focused on beating Bartlett.
“Roscoe is a serious candidate and David is a serious candidate,” Murphy said. “When you are running against a 20-year incumbent, that should be your focus.”
Afzali stepped in at the same time former state senator and state Republican party chair Alex Mooney stepped out of the 6th District race. Mooney announced on Tuesday he no longer is considering a run because his former mentor and incumbent, Bartlett, is rallying to keep his seat for an 11th term.
Mooney formed an exploratory committee to raise money to run for the 6th District seat in early December, when he thought Bartlett's former chief of staff, Bud Otis, was contemplating a run for his boss' seat. The newly redrawn district appears to favor a Democrat, and at the time Bartlett had done little to raise campaign funds.
Now that Bartlett has started raising money and appears serious about keeping his seat, Mooney said it was time to stand down.
“The Democrats want us to infight, want us to attack each other,” Mooney said Tuesday. “... For some people, politics is about self-promotion, for me it is about doing the right thing. The right thing is not to run right now.”
Flanked by state delegates Michael Hough (R-Dist. 3B) of Brunswick and Neil Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, as well as Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith (R) during a press conference Tuesday, Mooney said he is throwing his “full support behind Bartlett.”
Mooney will keep the $100,000 he raised for the next race, however, unless donors ask that their money be returned, he said.
Smith agreed that Mooney was doing “the right thing” by dropping out.
“I don't think he could beat Roscoe Bartlett right now. He's [Bartlett] still all there upstairs,” Smith said of the 85-year-old Congressman.
In addition to Afzali and Brinkley, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections, the following candidates have filed to run in District 6 as of Wednesday morning: Charles Bailey (D) of Washington County; John Delaney (D) of Montgomery County; state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown; Milad Pooran (D) of Frederick County; Bartlett; Robert Coblentz (R) of Washington County; Robin Ficker (R) of Montgomery County; Joseph T. Krysztoforski (R) of Baltimore County; and Brandon Orman Rippeon (R) of Frederick County.
Former Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (D), who previously said she would run, has withdrawn for health reasons.
The deadline to file for the April 3 primary was Wednesday.