@$:In the redrawing of election district lines, Frederick County got a second Member of Congress. Parts of the county remain in the 6th District, others are in the 8th. With the changes come more choices.
The sheer number of enigmatic, single-issue candidates enraged by partisan gridlock in Congress can be distracting; there are 13 candidates in the 6th District U.S. House race alone.
That race, in a district that now contains a larger slice of neighboring Montgomery County, has become the most contentious.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett is fending off a horde of challengers who now see him as vulnerable as the district becomes more liberal.
Yet redistricting seems to have revitalized the 10-term octogenarian. His newfound energy, joined by a wealth of experience and a message regarding fossil fuels that will play well with even staunch Democrats in Montgomery County, make Bartlett the right choice to represent his party in the November election.
Bartlett gets high marks for constituent services — those small tasks that rarely grab major attention (like U.S. military academy nominations, or help navigating a federal agency). He also has been a steady Republican vote (siding with his party 90 percent of the time), but not an ideologue (he voted against reauthorization of the Patriot Act).
Rightly, Bartlett gets the most criticism for his lack of effectiveness. The vast majority of bills he has sponsored never became laws and he has been railing about peak oil since the mid-’90s as gas prices top $4 a gallon.
While his prime GOP challenger, state Sen. David Brinkley, is a competent and experienced alternative, Bartlett has found a new energy that will give Republicans the best chance in the majority-Democratic district.
In the Democratic primary, John Delaney deserves the nod in this contest. While both he and chief rival state Sen. Rob Garagiola have imperfections — Delaney is a political newcomer while Garagiola is an Annapolis insider who has failed to fully disclose his lobbying history — Delaney is the more genuine candidate and brings a strong focus on job creation, an executive’s perspective on the economy and moderate views on social issues.
That contrasts with Garagiola’s increasingly attack-oriented campaign and tired messages that all too often echo whatever party-line philosophies are prevailing in state political circles. Delaney, a self-made millionaire who touts his working-class father, glides effortlessly between conversations about federal policy on education, energy and immigration. While Delaney’s view that an outsider can change the tone and approach of Congress as a whole is idealistic, it’s a better alternative than that of a tenured lawmaker who is known for political expediency and has been less than forthcoming about his lobbying work.
Delaney’s key platform issues include extending tax breaks for many Americans and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire; creating an infrastructure bank to invest in communications, transportation and energy; instituting a federal carbon tax; implementing congressional term limits; and preserving the Affordable Care Act.
Delaney’s personal wealth has made him viable in a contest that many political insiders viewed as settled before it began, but he does not come across as a dilettante. He is passionate, sincere and sharp, qualities that would well position him to be the strongest contender in the November general election.
8th DistrictIn the freshly carved 8th District, the clear choice in the Democratic primary is the incumbent, Christopher Van Hollen Jr. of Kensington.
First elected in 2002, Van Hollen has worked his way into a powerful position in the House Democratic hierarchy, giving his district’s residents and businesses a strong voice on Capitol Hill. That’s particularly important when representing a district that’s so dependent on the presence of major federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, major federal contractors such as Lockheed Martin, and thousands of federal workers.
His efforts to secure federal dollars for transportation infrastructure improvements at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda are just one example of his effective advocacy.
As ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen has an obvious command of the major fiscal issues facing the nation, including such complex and seemingly intractable matters as budget deficits, taxes, Social Security and Medicare. He’s shown a willingness to work with his Republican counterparts, which will be even more valuable this year as Congress confronts the expiration of major tax breaks and tries to strike a delicate policy balance between deficit reduction and economic growth.
Among a relatively lackluster GOP field, Shelly Skolnick of Silver Spring stands out, as he espouses a variety of positions that reflect a willingness to buck the party line and are more representative of his constituents’ attitudes than those of his primary opponents. His top priority is to protect Social Security by raising the retirement age and eliminating the cap on taxed wages. A lawyer and civil engineer by training, he also proposes securing a long-term revenue stream for much-needed transportation improvements by raising gasoline and diesel taxes — virtual heresy among most Republicans, but nonetheless a sensible option. He also favors protecting women’s abortion rights, another indication of his independence from GOP orthodoxy.