Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Middletown man looks to unseat Bartlett with plan

Challenger Croft won’t accept any campaign contributions

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Tom Croft of Middletown has not only decided to try winning the District 6 seat U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett has held since being elected in 1992, but he plans to do it by not accepting a single campaign contribution.

Croft (R), 59, has filed to challenge Bartlett in the Feb. 12 primary. Republican Frank K. Nethken of Cumberland has also filed for the seat.

‘‘I’m not going to accept campaign contributions,” Croft said. ‘‘I don’t want any money, because then I owe people. In order for somebody to raise enough money, they have to accept money from PACS [political action committees], special-interest groups and lobbyists.”

If Croft’s campaign strategy is successful, he has no intention of bowing to the special-interest groups and lobbyists that typically frequent the halls of Congress.

‘‘They just throw money at you, and you can’t get away from it,” he said.

A teacher of advanced animation and Web design at the Frederick County Career and Technology Center, Croft said his background in marketing and advertising will enable him to run without campaign contributions.

Croft plans to forgo advertising and instead talk directly to the voters in hopes they will spread his message.

This way his votes on the House floor will not be influenced by anyone but District 6 residents, Croft said.

If elected, Croft said he would set up a Web site for residents to use a password to vote on whether they support a piece of legislation. An explanation of the bill would be on the site.

Voting lists would be checked to ensure that everyone casts only one vote. Croft said 500 people or more would have to cast votes. If fewer than 500 people participate, Croft would decide on how he should vote.

For residents without Internet access, Croft and his staff would send out newsletters explaining the proposed legislation, which can be voted on by mail.

‘‘I will vote for what the majority of the people want even if it is against what I believe,” Croft said. ‘‘I’m bringing democracy back to the people. It will be the first time people will have a chance to vote.”

Croft acknowledged his approach is unusual. ‘‘But if you want to change some things, you have to do things differently,” he said.

Not pandering to lobbyists is something Croft believes will prevent him from gaining appointments to high-powered committees and block him from ever getting any legislation onto the House floor.

Croft’s strategy is getting some reaction.

‘‘I would applaud the not taking campaign contributions and beholden to lobbyists and political action committees,” said County Commissioner John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R), who has never asked the public for campaign contributions.

But Thompson contends that if elected, lobbyists and groups will still find a way to contact and influence Croft. ‘‘If he gets elected, he is going to run into that,” he said.

Dino Flores, chairman of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee, believes it will be difficult for Croft to run a successful campaign without financial contributions for advertising.

‘‘The district is so huge, I don’t see how you can get your name or message out there without money,” said Flores, who raised about $40,000 in 2004 when he ran unsuccessfully for Frederick County state’s attorney, and $25,000 two years later for the same seat.

District 6 includes all of Frederick, Allegany, Carroll, Garrett and Washington counties and parts of Harford, Montgomery and Baltimore counties.

Democrat Andrew Duck of Brunswick, who lost to Bartlett in 2006, announced in April that he would run again, though he has not yet filed with the Maryland Board of Elections.