Despite GOP leaders' dismay, Rolle takes on Roscoe Bartlett

February 11, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle says that if he doesn't win the March primary for the 6th Congressional District, he'll support Rep. Roscoe Bartlett for another term. Until then, Rolle said, he's going to give Bartlett the best race he can.

Rolle, 42, has drawn heat from Republican Party regulars who didn't want a primary challenge to Bartlett to draw resources away from other races featuring Democrat-Republican match-ups.

Bartlett has been endorsed by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who served with Bartlett in Congress. Despite that, Rolle calls Ehrlich a "friend" and says he understood why the governor did what he did.

In his third term as state's attorney, Rolle said he has the "very strong belief that there's no lifetime entitlement to elective office."


Rolle said he's been told by Bartlett supporters that the congressman will choose his own successor, in all probability his son Joe, now a delegate in the Maryland General Assembly.

Rolle didn't say this, but Rep. Bartlett could give Joe a leg up by resigning in the middle of a term and arguing as Pennsylvania Rep. Bud Shuster did, for the appointment of his son. That would give young Bartlett the incumbent's advantage in any future race.

"I think primaries are a good thing for a party. With Bob Ehrlich winning the governor's mansion, there's a good opportunity for us to attract new people to the party," Rolle said.

No doubt Rolle would be new, but how would he differ from Bartlett?

"We agree on a lot of things. We're both conservatives, but the president and I agree on education, while Bartlett voted against (the) No Child Left Behind (Act,)" Rolle said.

He added that while "the bureaucrats shouldn't tell us how to run our schools, I'm for anything that's going to improve educational standards."

The death penalty is another issue on which he and Bartlett differ.

"People who are responsible for terrorists acts that kill people should pay that penalty, if they are properly convicted," he said.

As for Bartlett, "I talked to him about it and he doesn't believe it's a deterrent. And if you look at some of his earlier votes, he was for it."

Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran has said that given the cost of prosecuting the multiple appeals involved in death-penalty prosecutions, it might make more sense to direct those resources to other cases.

Rolle agreed that a defendant facing the death penalty has multiple grounds for appeal.

"One of the solutions is to limit legal appeals. Basically the only time you can get the death penalty now in Maryland is if you want it, like John Thanos," he said.

Thanos was executed in May of 1994 after waiving his right to appeal, one of the first executed in Maryland since 1962, when the constitutionality of the death penalty was called into question.

Asked what congressional committees he'd like to serve on, Rolle said that as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, he would have a strong interest in committees dealing with veterans affairs and homeland security.

"I met with a group of first responders recently and they're woefully underfunded, given what we're going to ask them to do if there's an attack," he said.

Rolle said he'd also like to work on the Small Business Committee, since those firms create most of the new jobs in the 6th District.

"Bartlett is on that committee and he missed 75 percent of the meetings last year," Rolle said.

Asked for his reaction to Bartlett's practice of voting against omnibus appropriations bills on the grounds that they contain too much "pork," Rolle said pork is an interesting word.

"If you call it pork to get funds to help Fort Ritchie get more jobs, I would disagree," he said, adding that Bartlett voted for President Clinton's transportation bill, but against the one sought by President Bush.

Rolle said he supports the president's decision to go to war in Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein "had constantly rattled his sword at us and our allies. When diplomacy fails, we ought to be able to make a pre-emptive strike."

Rolle said Bartlett's service "is a time in a sense that's coming to an end. I grew up in this district and the views of the people in the district follow mine. We can do better."

The Maryland congressional primary is Tuesday, March 2.

Bob Maginnis is Opinion Page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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