Parties Look Back, Ahead in Maryland’s 6th District
Posted at 1:49 p.m. on April 5, 2012
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Those deeply invested in Maryland’s 6th district — a seat Democrats are counting as a top pickup opportunity this fall — spent most of Wednesday making sense of this week’s primary results.
On the Democratic side, wounds remain raw. State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola was supposed to win it all, but he lost big in the primary to businessman John Delaney, who poured more than $1.6 million of his own money into the campaign.
Garagiola’s mentor, state Sen. Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, gave a backhanded endorsement of Delaney on Wednesday, according to several reports.
But among party operatives — the Democrats who care more about a pickup in the delegation than the personalities involved — there is an almost palpable sense of relief that Delaney won.
The two men were vying in Tuesday’s primary to take on Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in November. The new map redrawn by Democrats deeply imperils Bartlett’s hold on the western Maryland seat. The new lines were drafted to give a unique advantage to Garagiola, an effort many sources have said Miller was behind.
While the fight and Miller’s comments were bitter, Democrats insist they are moving on.
Interviews with Democratic operatives and activists reveal a sense of profound disappointment in the execution of Garagiola’s campaign but also excitement and acknowledgment that Delaney is the better general election nominee.
“This race was served up to him on a silver platter, and he dropped it,” one Democrat said of Garagiola.
Many pointed to Garagiola’s decision to not air television ads. Another Democrat said that was not the only mistake.
“It’s not just the TV thing. Delaney ran a good campaign. Garagiola ran a terrible one,” the source said.
Even those who were campaigning hard for Garagiola as late as last week admitted they saw the writing on the wall weeks ago.
“It seems clear that Garagiola wasn’t geared up for this fight,” one activist said. He pointed to the resources deficit but he was also critical of the field effort.
Delaney spent Wednesday making calls and mending fences. He ate lunch with Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis.
Bartlett, who took 43 percent of the vote against seven opponents in Tuesday’s primary, is looking ahead as well. “We’re going to win,” the 85-year-old lawmaker said Wednesday.
When pressed on the fact that he was a sitting incumbent and did not break 50 percent in his party’s primary, Bartlett described his total as a “very respectable vote.” He explained that he was not an incumbent to nearly 50 percent of the redrawn district and had yet to foster the loyalty he currently enjoys.
He said his fundraising is going well and his campaign will have “adequate resources” to take on the wealthy Delaney. He said his TV ad buy during the primary was $128,000, and he intends to push hard to boost his name identification to his new constituents in Montgomery County. The expensive Washington media market will put pressure on his fundraising.
“If you aren’t on television, you’re missing your best opportunity to connect with people,” he said.
But, he added, he will also emphasize retail politicking. He said that along with television, he will campaign in Montgomery County Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce and in homes. He will target not just Republicans and independents, but also Democrats.
“When they know me in Montgomery County, I will be getting more than 10 percent of the Democratic vote there,” Bartlett said.
Democrats are dubious. The map was designed specifically to bring Bartlett down, and they are touting Delaney’s capacity to self-fund, his campaign’s execution and moderate profile.
Roll Call currently rates the race as Leans Democratic and named Bartlett one of the Top 10 Vulnerable Members in the recent Election Preview.