Is Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) really running for reelection?
That question has swirled in Maryland political circles ever since the state adopted a new redistricting map that shifts the boundaries of Bartlett’s 6th Congressional District, moving it south into liberal-leaning Montgomery County and thus the “competitive” category for 2012.
Bartlett, 85, has insisted he is running for an 11th term in Congress, even though he would have to introduce himself to a large swath of new voters. But that hasn’t stopped political operatives in both parties from wondering whether Bartlett will stick to his pledge.
The first clue that he could decide to retire came in the latest fundraising quarter, when he brought in a paltry $1,000 for his campaign account. Now comes another potential hint — Bartlett’s chief of staff, Bud Otis, has been making calls about running for the seat himself.
The conservative blog Red Maryland first reported last week that Otis was soliciting the support of leaders in the district for a potential campaign. Now Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) has told both MarylandReporter.com and Roll Call that Otis had asked him for his backing if Bartlett chose not to run.
Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright said Otis had made it clear he would be interested in running only if Bartlett did not and that his inquiries did not mean Bartlett had changed his mind about anything.
“What the congressman has said and what Bud has said should be taken at face value,” Wright said. “Bud works for Congressman Bartlett. Congressman Bartlett has filed for reelection. He’s been asked, and he’s said on the record: ‘I’m running for reelection. I will do what’s necessary to win, and I expect that I will win.’ ”
It’s possible that Bartlett is genuinely torn about whether to run and that Otis is just making contingency plans. But some Republicans have wondered privately whether Bartlett planned all along to wait until right before the Jan. 11 filing deadline to announce his retirement, thus making it easier for a favored candidate — perhaps Otis? — to get on the ballot with less opposition.
And Bartlett will face some primary opposition if he does run. Four Republicans aside from Bartlett have already filed in the 6th District, including perennial candidate and sports heckler Robin Ficker and businessman Brandon Rippeon.
That number could soon swell — state Sen. David Brinkley (R-Frederick), state Sen. Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and state GOP chairman Alex Mooney are all considering the race.
On the Democratic side, the field includes state Sen. Rob Garagiola (Montgomery County), former Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and financier John K. Delaney.