Delaney, Md. Democrats work to show unified front after newcomer’s primary win

April 4, 2012

The morning after John K. Delaney’s victory in the 6th District primary, Maryland Democrats were already looking to project unity ahead of November’s general election.

Delaney, the wealthy newcomer who defeated establishment candidate state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola for the Democratic nod in the congressional seat, is scheduled to have lunch in Potomac with U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, who easily deflected a primary challenge on Tuesday, and state Democratic Party Chairman Yvette Lewis. Delaney planned to call other key Democrats in the state as well as the interest groups that backed his opponent.

“We’ll be reaching out to all our friends in labor, to our friends in the environmental community,” said Delaney campaign manager Justin Schall. “We’re all going to work together to move forward.”

Delaney will face Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R), whose district was redrawn to be tossup territory in November. Bartlett fended off state Sen. David Brinkley (Frederick) and six other Republican challengers in a battle for the Tuesday’s most contested Maryland seat.

Garagiola was the pick of much of the state Democratic Party, which tailored the district’s lines to strengthen his prospects, while Delaney was a first-time candidate whose prodigious spending helped level the playing field. Delaney’s win was a repudiation of the party leaders and traditional Democratic interest groups that threw their weight behind Garagiola.

David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, blamed Garagiola’s loss in part on his choosing not to go on the airwaves, while Delaney had a heavy presence on television and radio.

“Delaney’s win is confirmation you need a modern ad campaign to win a primary in the D.C. suburbs, where the cost of name recognition is steep,” Wasserman said. “It’s also confirmation that drawing the lines is no guarantee of electing a certain candidate.”

The story of Delaney and Garagiola’s months-long fight followed an unusual arc.

When Annapolis Democrats redrew the state’s congressional map, they decided to target Bartlett by adding the western portion of Democratic-leaning Montgomery County to the more conservative Maryland panhandle. And at the urging of state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert), a close Garagiola ally, they drew the 6th Congressional District to include Garagiola’s Germantown home but exclude those of several other prominent Montgomery Democrats.

U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) threw his weight behind Garagiola, as did every major union and such liberal groups as MoveOn.org and the League of Conservation Voters. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) also endorsed Garagiola in the closing days of the race.

But Delaney, the founder of the Chevy Chase commercial lender CapitalSource, was able to leverage some of his own political connections, winning the backing of former president Bill Clinton as well as Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Rep. Donna F. Edwards of Prince George’s County.

Delaney raised roughly double what Garagiola did in the first quarter of the year from outside donors, and Delaney put about $1.7 million of his own money into his campaign. He ran a host of television and radio ads, while Garagiola was silent on the airwaves.

The tenor of the race was often negative. Delaney branded Garagiola an Annapolis “insider” and criticized him for not reporting outside income from a lobbying job on state disclosure forms. Garagiola accused Delaney’s business of unsavory practices and pointed out his contribution to the congressional campaign of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) in 2010.

Bartlett, meanwhile, was leading a field that included Brinkley and Del. Kathy Afzali (Frederick). Although the redrawn district includes territory he has never represented, and some state Republicans had privately expected him to retire, Bartlett appeared to benefit from the fact that the anti-incumbent primary vote was split several ways.

In the Senate contest, Cardin, who was neutral in the Delaney-Garagiola race, beat state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (Prince George’s) and seven other Democrats. All of the state’s eight U.S. House members won their primaries, and all but Bartlett appeared on track to win in the general election.

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