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Mayberry stirs up GOP

March 04, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

For a campaign whose candidates agree on nearly all the major issues, the Republican primary race between U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and Timothy R. Mayberry for the 6th Congressional District seat has become an acrimonious affair.

Mayberry, a financial consultant from Boonsboro, agrees with Bartlett on hot-button issues such as abortion and gun control. They have similar views on taxes, defense and the role of the federal government in education.

But Mayberry, 43, contends it is not enough to simply "vote right" in Congress.

"It's a question of leadership," he said.

The two conservative Republicans will square off in Tuesday's primary.

Mayberry said Bartlett has left little imprint on Congress despite being a member of the majority party in his fourth term. He said the incumbent's only recognizable achievement in that time has been a law banning Playboy magazine from stores on military bases.

Mayberry has drawn harsh criticism from several Republican Party activists who say his primary challenge could weaken Bartlett for the general election. But he said he decided Bartlett's faults could jeopardize the seat in 2002.

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"What we're finding is, with his lack of leadership, lack of a legislative legacy, he has lost a lot of support no matter what I did," he said.

Bartlett, 73, has responded by accusing of Mayberry of distorting his record. Bartlett's supporters accused Mayberry of harming the party.

"The voters will decide. I hope I've done an adequate, good job," Bartlett said.

Democratic observers have watched the family feud with great delight.

Rick L. Hemphill, the chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, said the presence of independents in the GOP primary this year could give Mayberry a chance to pull off an upset. That would greatly improve the prospects of the Democratic nominee, he said.

For his part, Bartlett said his legislative record extends far beyond bills that bear his name. Much of the work of Congress is done in committees, he said.

For instance, he said he contributed greatly to legislation that ordered the military to train men and women separately.

Another example: Bartlett said he recognized in 1995 that Congress was about to let expire a 30 percent deduction self-employed taxpayers were allowed to take to pay for health care premiums. So he sponsored a bill to reinstate the deduction.

The legislation passed, but the final bill was authored by the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee.

"In this case, I got no credit for it. It was my idea," Bartlett said.

The campaign has turned bitter at times, with Mayberry firing the same ammunition the Democratic nominee is likely to use in the fall.

Bartlett supporters, in turn, complained that Mayberry was improperly challenging an incumbent Republican incumbent at the same time he was serving as treasurer of the state GOP.

Mayberry resigned as treasurer after an assistant state attorney general advised the state Board of Elections Mayberry could not run for office while holding a party position.

All of this has only served to energize Mayberry. He picked up The (Baltimore) Sun's endorsement Feb. 28.

Mayberry said Bartlett's ineffective leadership has prevented Western Maryland from sharing equally in the national boom.

"I think it's all economics," he said. "This is as good as it gets. (But) we've been left behind, especially here in Washington County."

Bartlett countered that the unemployment rate has dropped 2 percent in Washington County in the last year to its lowest level ever. The jobless rate is higher in Garrett and Allegany counties, but both have posted significant declines as well.

"Our district has actually done quite well economically," Bartlett said.

Mayberry and Bartlett also have clashed over the congressman's vote to close Fort Ritchie. Bartlett voted to close all bases on a list recommended by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. He said he lobbied hard to keep Fort Ritchie off that list but had to accept the final judgment.

"I've fought as hard a anyone could fight to keep Fort Ritchie open," he said. "We would never close a base if not for the BRAC process."

Mayberry also criticized Bartlett for votes against drought and flood relief. But Bartlett said those measures were embedded in huge, pork-laden bills that he could not support.

"I can help him find 100 things I would like to have voted for. I can also find 200 things to vote against," he said.

U.S. representatives earn $141,300 annually and serve two-year terms.

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