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DeArmon will make another run for Congressional seat

April 03, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Democratic congressional aide Donald DeArmon doesn't think enough voters got his message two years ago so he's trying again to unseat Republican Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett.

DeArmon, 46, lost to Bartlett in the 2000 general election, receiving 39 percent of the vote. He filed last Friday to run for the 6th District seat and formally announced his candidacy Tuesday morning at his Frederick, Md., home.

During a Tuesday afternoon interview at The Herald-Mail, DeArmon described Bartlett's political tenure as "ineffective."

He tried to point that out during his 2000 campaign, but believes not everyone got the message because voters' expectations of Bartlett have been "dumbed down," DeArmon said.

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"People have such low expectations of him that they don't take him to task," DeArmon said.

Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright said the voters disagreed with DeArmon's message that Bartlett is ineffective.

"That's a retread of his failed campaign," Wright said. "He said it before and the effect was that less than 40 percent of voters at the polls cast their ballots for him."

DeArmon said another factor in his defeat was the necessity to raise $600,000 to $1 million to run a competitive race against an incumbent. Bartlett has been a congressman since 1993.

DeArmon raised about $325,000 for his last campaign and hopes to raise $600,000 to $700,000 for this campaign.

Some of that money will be spent campaigning for the Democratic primary that as of Tuesday included one opponent, Charles C. McPeek of Laurel, Md.

DeArmon focused mainly on what Bartlett had voted against or not supported, but said his campaign will not be negative.

"His record alone is terrible enough that there's enough to criticize," DeArmon said.

DeArmon cited Bartlett's votes against President Bush's bipartisan education reform bill and a transportation bill as examples.

Wright said the highway bill was "ancient history." Bartlett voted against the bill at least four years ago because that version had cut veterans benefits, she said.

Bartlett supported Bush's education reforms, but thought changes pushed by Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy were counterproductive, Wright said.

After losing to Bartlett in 2000, DeArmon said he wasn't sure he was going to try again, but three main factors motivated him.

His supporters encouraged him to run again, DeArmon said.

The effect Sept. 11's terrorist attacks had on him and two incidents his family had with health care last year also prompted him to run again, he said.

Even with a federal employee's health care plan, the DeArmons face bills for thousands of dollars after one of their daughters broke a leg and needed emergency surgery and another faced a mental collapse, he said. Both daughters have recovered.

"If I'm a federal employee with 'good' health insurance, what must it be like for someone who is uninsured?" DeArmon said.

Being evacuated from the Rayburn House Office Building on Sept. 11 and being kept out during the ensuing anthrax threat made him realize the need for experienced people in leadership positions, DeArmon said.

DeArmon said he has 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill. He has been an aide to U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., for four years.

He said he plans to take a leave from that job around Labor Day to focus on his campaign.

This time, DeArmon said, he will be louder sooner and will make more visits throughout the 6th District. Following reapportionment, the district will consist of Washington, Frederick, Allegany, Garrett and Carroll counties and parts of Montgomery, Baltimore and Harford counties.

DeArmon also ran for the congressional seat in 1994 and ran unsuccessfully in 1980 for the 1st District congressional seat held by then-Rep. Roy Dyson of the Eastern Shore.

DeArmon and his wife, Ann, have three daughters and a son.

The deadline to file for office is 9 p.m. July 1. The Democratic primary is Sept. 10.

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