The Washington Post

State Sen. Garagiola eyes challenge to Roscoe Bartlett

A key Democratic leader in Annapolis is weighing whether to launch a bid to move up to Congress next year.

State Sen. Robert Garagiola (D-Montgomery), the current Senate majority leader, may decide to challenge U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) in 2012, depending on whether Maryland mapmakers draw Bartlett’s 6th district into a more competitive battleground than it is currently.

At a Democratic picnic in Washington County on Thursday, Garagiola acknowledged that he was considering such a bid, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. “[R]ight now, it’s not a competitive district,” Garagiola told the paper. But if the district becomes more amenable to a Democrat, “that changes the dynamic quite a bit.”

The 6th district stretches from the West Virginia border all the way to the Susquehanna River across the northern portion of the state. It leans solidly toward Republicans — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) beat Barack Obama (D) there by 18 points in the 2008 presidential race — and Bartlett has been reelected with ease over the years.

But portions of the district, particularly in Frederick County, may be trending more toward the middle. And top state Democrats are considering a new district map that would put more of Democratic-leaning Montgomery County, including all or part of Gaithersburg, Germantown or Rockville, into the 6th.

That could make Bartlett far more vulnerable or even prod the 85-year-old into retirement (though he has given no public indication so far that he plans to leave office anytime soon).

The state’s new map is expected to be approved by the General Assembly in a special session in October.

Garagiola has long been viewed by Democrats as a favored candidate to run in a new 6th district. The lead sponsor in the Senate of Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill, he is known for his work on raising the gas tax and other transportation and energy issues.

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