On Md. ballot, Bartlett faces tough race, Edwards escapes challenge from Ivey

January 11, 2012

One marquee congressional contest took shape and another fizzled out Wednesday as the deadline passed for Maryland candidates to get on this year’s ballots.

The state’s newly drawn congressional district map largely protects incumbents, yielding just one assuredly competitive race: Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett’s (R) bid for an 11th term in a district shaped by Democrats in Annapolis to be ripe for the picking.

“This is one seat that’s flipped dramatically from the safe Republican column to the Democrats being favored,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

With the primary looming April 3, Bartlett faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from two sitting legislators — Sen. David Brinkley (Frederick) and Del. Kathy Afzali (Frederick) — while the Democratic ballot will include Sen. Rob Garagiola (Montgomery) and financier John Delaney.

But an anticipated Democratic primary battle fell by the wayside Wednesday as former Prince George’s County prosecutor Glenn F. Ivey decided against challenging Rep. Donna F. Edwards. Ivey struggled for weeks to attract donors and hire key staff for his race against a popular, labor-backed incumbent.

“I just could not raise enough money to win,” Ivey said in an interview. “We could not figure out how to make the numbers work.”

Ivey’s move should mean clear sailing for Edwards, who ruffled some feathers in her party this year by protesting against the redistricting map authored by a commission backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). She now faces two little-known primary opponents in a seat that heavily favors Democrats.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) is also viewed as a favorite for reelection, although he did draw a notable primary opponent in state Sen. C. Anthony Muse. President Obama and most Maryland Democratic leaders have endorsed Cardin, prompting Muse to complain that the state party needed to do a better job staying neutral in the contest.

On the Republican side, former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino has been the most active and vocal Senate candidate, drawing news media attention for his unusual background. Former Pentagon and Justice Department lawyer Richard Douglas has won the endorsements of a handful of Bush administration national security officials.

A total of 19 candidates filed for the Senate contest. Maryland law makes it relatively easy to get on the ballot compared with some other states.

In the Washington region, congressmen Chris Van Hollen (D) and Steny H. Hoyer (D) each drew one Democrat and three Republican opponents, but both incumbents are expected to win reelection with ease, as are Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings, C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes.

Freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R) saw his previously competitive Eastern Shore-based district redrawn to favor the GOP, giving him the clear edge over three Democratic hopefuls.

The real focus will be on Bart­lett’s 6th District, which was altered to include a slice of Democratic-leaning Montgomery County along with the more conservative and rural territory of Western Maryland.

The new map has sparked drama. Bartlett’s chief of staff, Bud Otis, resigned his post after word leaked to the news media that he was soliciting support for his own campaign should Bartlett choose to retire. Otis eventually decided not to run. Maryland Republican Party head Alex X. Mooney, a former Bartlett aide, also decided against a bid after raising money and recruiting supporters for the race.

That leaves Brinkley, who has the backing of several local Republican officials, as well as Afzali and five other Republicans challenging the incumbent.

Garagiola, meanwhile, has significant establishment support on the Democratic side because the district was drawn by party leaders with him in mind.

ben.pershing@wpost.com

Staff writer Miranda S. Spivack contributed to this report.

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