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Previewing Maryland's 6th district congressional primaries

 

For Roscoe Bartlett, Tuesday's congressional primary in Maryland will be the easy part. The hard part, however, will come in November.

Bartlett -- the second-oldest member of the House (he's a month older than John Dingell) -- is the incumbent in the Maryland's redrawn 6th congressional district. Often described in profiles as "quirky", Bartlett is without a doubt one of the most idiosyncratic (and interesting) members of Congress. A 10-term congressman, Bartlett is a goat farmer, an inventor, and a former college professor who holds a Ph.D. in physiology. He's a member of the Tea Party caucus, opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iran, and was the first member of the GOP caucus to buy a Toyota Prius.

He's also a marked man.

Maryland's new map was redrawn by Democrats who wanted to take him out. The 6th district -- which comprised most of the western part of Maryland -- was redrawn to also include a good chunk of Washington, DC suburbs of Montgomery County. The result is what was once rural solidly Republican district -- giving President Obama nearly 40% of the vote in 2008 -- is now a Democratic district that gave Obama 56% of the vote. According to Cook Political Report, it's the biggest redistricting swing in the country.

Bartlett is not going down with a fight, however; he's raised more money than all seven of his Republican primary opponents combined. Nothing if not cantankerous, Bartlett insists he's the only Republican that can hold onto the seat. He's expected to win his primary fairly easily, but faces a big challenge in November.

The Democrats are running a bitter campaign to take on Bartlett. State Sen. Rob Garagiola was thought to be the favorite, and the district was reportedly redrawn to help his chances. But that rankled others, especially wealthy financier John Delaney. Delaney, who founded commercial lender CapitalSource, has chipped in $1.3 million of his own fortune into his campaign so far.

The race has turned nasty as Garagiola has attacked Delaney as a "loan shark" foreclosure profiteer, and highlighted the fact that Delaney doesn't live in the district (his residence is just outside the new lines.) Delaney has fired back trying to cast Garagiola as an "Annapolis insider" who once worked as a lobbyist. The state Democratic establishment is clearly favoring Garagiola: Steny Hoyer has endorsed him, and late this week Gov. Martin O'Malley did as well.

Delaney claims support from Bill Clinton.