Since 1992, Bartlett’s quirky, down-home conservative style has been a good fit with Western Maryland. But it’s not his old turf anymore.
After the 2010 Census, Maryland lawmakers rejiggered boundaries to help the Democratic Party regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives by targeting Bartlett’s 6th District seat. Gone is a big chunk of his base of rural and exurban commuters in Frederick and Carroll counties. In their place are hundreds of thousands of new, mostly Democratic voters in Montgomery County. Bartlett said the district now has 185,000 Democrats, 139,000 Republicans and 79,000 independents.
“It’s an uphill fight, of course it is, because it was a gerrymandered district to make a Democrat pickup seat,” Bartlett said.
His opponent is newcomer John K. Delaney, the founder and chief executive of CapitalSource in Chevy Chase. Delaney has poured plenty of money and sweat into the race, and he has proven his tenacity with an upset victory over the primary candidate backed by party leaders.
Some Democrats say that fresh blood from their party will finally give the district a voice in Congress. Republicans say they think that the redrawn map was already the first step toward disenfranchising Western Maryland.
“The heart of it now has been shifted to Montgomery County. I think both the rural community and the urban community have been upset by this,” said state Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick).
Even Delaney dislikes the new map. But Delaney, along with many other Democrats, also hopes voters will look past the map to the people vying for office.
Bartlett’s résuméis an unusual farrago of achievements and interests. He has been a theological student, a doctoral recipient in human physiology, a homebuilder, a scientist, an engineer, an inventor, a medical school professor, a dairy farmer, a solar pioneer and a potential survivalist who keeps a well-stocked cabin in the mountains of West Virginia. With 10 children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, he also qualifies as a patriarch.
His uncommon range of experiences allows him to find something in common with almost anyone, as Bartlett showed while campaigning in Gaithersburg last week.
At the Old Towne Cafe, he spoke with a couple about his early years in Montgomery, saying he had built his first house on a $600 lot on Muncaster Mill Road while attending college. When the couple talked about their concerns over health care, Bartlett shared his own, mentioning the needs of an autistic grandchild.
Down the street, at Wolfson’s Department Store, Bartlett reminisced with Mayor Sidney Katz, a Democrat, about rationing during World War II. (“You had to go get a chit to get a tire.”) At a dental office, Bartlett shared his thought that the Information Age is just a high-tech bubble. (“You can’t eat those electrons. They won’t keep the rain off your head. They won’t take you anywhere. They just help you do other things better.”)