Candidate spends little, nearly pulls off an upset

September 12, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

A political unknown who spent just $150 on his campaign surprised political observers by coming close to capturing the Democratic 6th District congressional nomination in Tuesday's primary.

"The only thing I can say happened is that I struck a chord being a conservative Democrat," said Kevin Shaffer of LaVale, who collected 15,134 votes, or 47.8 percent, in the eight-county district that includes Washington County.

Fellow Democrat Don DeArmon of Frederick, Md., who has twice tried to unseat incumbent Republican Roscoe Bartlett Jr., barely secured the chance to try a third time with 16,548 votes, or 52.2 percent.


"It did keep me up late last night. It was a very interesting evening. I'm real pleased to have the nomination against Roscoe," DeArmon said.

DeArmon, who had amassed about $70,000 in his campaign account as of mid-August, said he was surprised by the nail-biter and could offer no explanation.

The congressional staffer said he spent little on the primary and most of what he did spend was geared toward defeating Bartlett in November.

Bartlett, who didn't have a primary challenger, collected 48,841 Republican votes.

Shaffer, an accountant with the Allegany County government, barely campaigned. He said he spent $100 on the filing fee and $50 on campaign photographs and postage to mail press releases to the media.

John Bambacus, a political science professor at Frostburg State University, said he was mystified by Shaffer's strong showing.

The idea that Shaffer connected with conservative Democrats in the district would make sense only if Shaffer had spent money getting out his message, he said.

"I can't believe one news release for one day is going to all of a sudden bring about this groundswell of support," Bambacus said.

Bambacus said one theory might be that voters confused Shaffer with Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

Frederick County results were late because a vote-counting machine temporarily broke down, said Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey.

When Washington County election officials were finished tallying the results, they sent their machine to Frederick. By then, a technician there had fixed the machine, Harvey said.

In the District 3 state senate race, Sue Hecht received 6,663 votes in the Democratic primary and Alex Mooney collected 6,451 votes to secure the Republican nomination.

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