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DeArmon returns, will 'up the volume'

April 08, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

DeArmon returns, will 'up the volume'

Don DeArmon has lost twice before to U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, once in 1994 when a pledge to take no PAC money backfired on him and in 2000, when his low-key approach to campaigning failed to engage voters.

This time, he says he's going to raise more money and "turn up the volume."

DeArmon, a Frederick resident, has been a congressional staffer for more than 20 years, the last four with Rep. Louise Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. His decision to try again came for four reasons, he said.

"When you lose, you feel like you've let people down, the people who've spent a lot of time working for you. Then you run into your supporters and they ask you when you're going to run again," he said.

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The second reason was the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, after which DeArmon was one of those evacuated from his office following the anthrax scare.

"It showed me that we really need experienced people with judgment in national office," he said.

The third was a family health crisis. The father of three had one daughter break her leg and the other face a near-collapse. Even with the good insurance congressional employees have, DeArmon said he'll be paying off the providers for years.

"I though that if it's like this for somebody like me who's got 'good' insurance, what's it like for somebody who's uninsured?" he said.

Finally, he said, he's running because Bartlett, first elected in 1993, is ineffective. It's a theme he pushed in 2000, but this time he doesn't seem like a man who's following a campaign script, but somebody who's genuinely angry about it.

"What has Roscoe Bartlett done that deserves another term in Congress?" DeArmon said.

One example he cited was Bartlett's vote against President Bush's educational reform plan, which a Bartlett spokesperson said came because Bartlett liked the plan, but not some of the changes crafted by Sen. Ted Kennedy.

DeArmon also noted that Bartlett has voted against all federal education funding for the past three years.

"If Roscoe Bartlett had prevailed, we'd have lost Title I funds for thousands of children," DeArmon said.

Nor has Bartlett done anything to improve the nation's health-care system, which DeArmon said is "in crisis." In the richest country in the world, 40 million people have no health-care insurance, and businesses find it increasingly difficult to offer insurance to their employees.

DeArmon said the nation needs national health care, so that the money saved on claims processing can be used to improve the nation's health, including giving senior citizens a prescription plan.

"We need a plan to band citizens of the nation together into a buying group," DeArmon said. He added that he knows this change will come slowly, probably building at first on employer-sponsored health care.

As he did two years ago, DeArmon pledged that he will work on local problems, like the one Frederick City is facing because its flood-control project hasn't been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

As a result, DeArmon said, downtown property owners and businesses pay more than they should for insurance. DeArmon said that an effective representative would see news reports of such problems, then jump in to help. In contrast, DeArmon said, local officials, including some Republicans, have told him that when they've approached Bartlett for help, they've been rebuffed.

Though he's a Democrat, DeArmon says he supports the president's anti-terrorism actions "100 percent."

"I think our troops are doing a wonderful job," he said.

DeArmon said he wonders if, when Bartlett rails about big government, he realizes that firefighters, police and educators are all a service of that government.

"I don't believe government can do everything, but it can move us forward," he said.

DeArmon's most effective argument against Bartlett may be one he hasn't used yet. Bartlett requested $31 million for area governments' security and anti-terrorist activities, but didn't get a thing from a Republican president. If your own guy doesn't take care of you, what does that say?

In The Herald-Mail's 2000 endorsement of Bartlett, the paper said that the Congressman had three tasks - to reform the legislative process, so that an important bill doesn't become a catch for "pork," speed up Fort Ritchie's transfer and secure funds for Interstate 81 and Hagerstown Regional Airport improvements. As the campaign unfolds, I hope to talk to the incumbent about these and other issues.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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