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Bartlett in the 6th

October 23, 1998

Who would have thought as the decade began that the name Bartlett might be thought of in Western Maryland in terms of political dynasties?

But with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett seeking his fourth term in office and his son Joe looking for election to the Maryland House of Delegates this proposition isn't too much of a reach.

Democrat Tim McCown of Jefferson is seeking to halt the Bartlett March, hitting on Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's millionaire status and arguing that he is out of touch with the common bread winner.

The elder Bartlett for his part seems to have settled down from his earlier years in Congress when he was dogged by an almost endless string of almost comic episodes.

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He has become more judicious in recent years, and his conservative views fit comfortably with the philosophy of a majority of Western Marylanders.

Bartlett, of Buckeyestown, also shows strength as a facilitator, one who opens dialogues for the purpose of finding solutions.

He's worked in Hancock for answers to the town's flooding problems and he has been involved in plans for converting Fort Ritchie to private use.

Not that talk always leads to success. Bartlett couldn't keep the fort from closing in the first place, he failed in efforts to keep vehicle emissions testing out of Western Maryland and most recently has been unsuccessful in finding a solution for the Hagerstown Roundhouse.

But Washington Countians have historically viewed personal, constituent service to be of more importance than favors from the federal government. And that's where Bartlett gets his best marks.

Individuals who contact Bartlett's office give him plaudits for responding to their messages and helping them air their grievances with government.

McCown has a point when he complains that Congress has become a nesting spot for the rich, but given Bartlett's reputation for listening to his constituents, it's hard to argue that the congressmen has no idea of working peoples' needs.

The challenger has also picked three areas where Bartlett's record is weakest - environment, education and good-paying jobs - to focus his attack. Bartlett is indeed vulnerable on these points, but it's questionable whether these issues will resonate in Western Maryland where a majority of people are more interested in the right to bear arms, prayer in schools and as little government interference as possible - all Bartlett strong points.

Bartlett will never be a player on a national scale and he will never have the influence for local projects of a Bud Shuster in Pennsylvania or a Bob Wise (with considerable help from his Senators) in West Virginia.

But Bartlett shines in the areas nearest to Western Marylanders' hearts - Christian values, limited government interference and constituent service. And in truth, helping people on an individual basis - as opposed to "bringing home the bacon" - may have been more of what the Founders had in mind for the job.

In that way, Bartlett is a good fit for the area and should be rewarded with another term.

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