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DeArmon to challenge Bartlett in 2000 election

December 22, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Depicting Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett as out of touch, congressional aide Don DeArmon has become the third Democrat to enter the race for the 6th Congressional District seat.

It is the second try for DeArmon, who finished fifth in the Democratic primary in 1994.

"I think he's clearly out of step with the district," said DeArmon, who works for U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. "I think we can do better. And I think Congress, especially, can make progress."

The Frederick, Md., Democrat pledged to tackle a range of problems he says Bartlett has failed to address, from education to health care.

"I think there's been too much partisanship. I'm just sick of it," he said.

DeArmon, 44, said he favors a patient bill of rights that "puts doctors and patients back in charge again."

He also advocated federal investment in education to reduce class sizes and repair and construct school buildings.

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On Social Security, DeArmon said incremental changes can preserve the retirement system.

"The main thing is to get the politics out of it. Both parties deserve criticism," he said. "The main thing is that we act."

DeArmon said he would offer the district a moderate alternative to Bartlett's hard-right stances. He criticized the four-term congressman for his vote this year against a spending bill that included more money for health research, farm aid and funds to reduce class sizes.

Bartlett was the only member of the Maryland delegation to vote against it.

"I think it's the most recent example," DeArmon said. "He's against class-size reduction."

Bartlett denied that characterization. He said giant catch-all legislation that combines several spending bills at the end of the session usually makes bad law.

When lawmakers run out of time at the end of the fiscal year, they often fold several different bills into one giant piece of legislation. Few members of Congress even read the bill, Bartlett said.

While the bill contained many good projects, Bartlett said it also had many negative aspects. On balance, he said it did more harm than good.

"It was loaded with pork. They should have been ashamed," he said. "I'm disgusted with the whole process."

DeArmon brings to the race 22 years of experience on Capitol Hill and a reputation for exhaustive campaigning. DeArmon, who finished the JFK ultramarathon last year, said he probably will walk across the 232-mile district as he did in 1994.

DeArmon got only 6 percent of the vote in the seven-candidate primary in 1994 and had trouble raising money. This time, he said he is confident he will raise enough to be competitive.

DeArmon joins two other Democrats - Anthony J. McGuffin, of Ellicott City, and John Ewald, of Laurel.

The deadline to file for office is 9 p.m. Monday. The primary election is March 7.

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