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June 23, 2008

Political Street Gossip Part 4

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

We've looked at federal, city, and county upcoming election cycles. The 6th District congressional race is upon us, the others are more distant and definitely less clear.


Least clear may be the state elections in 2010. A muddled mess at this point, it is fun to try to handicap some of those races.


One thing is certain: the single-member legislative district in southern Frederick and southeastern Washington County will have a new member come 2011. In previous columns, I've been clear about why it won't be me. I was the first person to ever fill the District 3-B seat, having been created through the Glendening Administration's 2002 General Assembly redistricting proposal.


Even before the ink was dry on the press reports covering my political "retirement", the rush to express an interest in filling the job started. Michael Hough, Sen. Alex Mooney's (R., Frederick/Washington) former campaign manager and legislative aide, issued a press release to announce his candidacy, a thinly-veiled excuse to start fundraising. Using the Mooney model, it's all about the Benjamins! Mr. Hough will employ the same conservative candidacy approach perfected by his mentor, including soliciting funds at every opportunity from every possible donor.


Best of all are those "scare tactic" letters. You know the ones: they feature male transvestites in full sequined evening gown, boa, and high heels with the wording "gay marriage will be taught in our schools." That stern warning is followed by an emotional appeal to help fund the candidacy of the one candidate you can count on to stop this madness. Michael, if you decide to use my idea, please give me credit!


If past is prologue, Michael Hough will be a very conservative representative. If you like Senator Mooney’s voting record, you'll find much to like with Mr. Hough. Not sure you'll find much consensus-building, though. These two seem to be kindred spirits on the whole "go along to get along" thing.


They seem to say it's better to be a consistent do-little politician than to invest some energy in finding issues in common with the majority. I guess that curries favor with a political base, but doesn't really serve the public interest very well.


At least two others have expressed some level of interest in the 3-B seat. Lisa Baugher, my aide and a well-known civic activist, has said she will run for my seat. She could do an outstanding job, although she'd probably handle things very differently than I have (that's probably a good thing).


Frederick County Commissioner Charles Jenkins may also be considering a run for the 3-B seat, although leaving Winchester Hall in the hands of a new group of commissioners dominated by Commissioner Kai Hagen may be too painful a thought for Mr. Jenkins. He has a built-in constituency, too. He has cultivated the illegal immigrant issue very effectively and could easily turn that into state legislative electorate gold.


The Senate races should be interesting, and on many levels maybe the most compelling political story of the 2010 election cycle. First, there's the question of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. Most pundits see him prevailing in his 2008 contest against former Frederick City Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, but larger questions loom about 2010.


Will Dr. Bartlett be back for another term? Will he even serve out his term if re-elected in November? The old wisdom used to be that Del. Joe Bartlett (R., Frederick), banking on using the old man's signs, stickers, buttons, and most importantly, last name on a ballot, would succeed his father in Congress.


I never bought that. Delegate Bartlett is a nice guy, and he certainly does a decent job as a state legislator. No voter is so stupid as to cast a vote for a guy's kid merely because of the last name, though. If he ran a decent campaign, had a meaningful platform, and could raise money and profile, he'd be competitive, and the name would help. He's had some personal issues, though. In these family values debates, the guys (and gals) that get too preachy and moral often have trouble when their own lives expose common travails and challenges.


Speaking of that, Sen. David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) was always assumed to be the logical replacement for Representative Bartlett (the elder). He has shown himself to be a statesman of some significance and accomplishment, and his ascension to a key leadership role in Annapolis afforded him a statewide name recognition platform.


In the interest of full disclosure, I count Senator Brinkley among my best friends in the realm of public service. I would be honored to work on that congressional campaign. I'm not sure how that will all work out now, though. The Brinkley's have some family issues to work through, and assuming he retains his state Senate seat (and I see no reason he wouldn't), his chance of being a shoo-in in a 6th District congressional race is considerably less certain now.


All the more tenuous when you consider his most serious challenge will come from the right, from the senior state senator from Frederick County, the aforementioned Alex Mooney.


Alex has proven his preference for rough-and-tumble politics, never one to shun the dirt in order to get a leg up on an opponent. Just ask former State Sen. Jack Derr! In a family values debate, which Senator Mooney would invariably create, Senator Brinkley would be at a measurable and distinct disadvantage.


All of this presumes that Congressman Bartlett has hung up the wingtips, an assumption one should only make cautiously. Nothing about the septuagenarian federal legislator would lead anyone to conclude that retirement is pending or a forgone outcome.


Assuming Mr. Bartlett seeks another 2-year term in Washington in 2010, only the most confident would bother with a challenge. He's that well-known throughout the district. If both Senators Mooney and Brinkley decide to keep their General Assembly seats, both could expect a challenge. In that event, Senator Mooney would seem the more vulnerable of the two.


Tomorrow, a little more about this and the other Frederick Delegation races.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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