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Republicans kick off campaign with Newt

July 03, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

FREDERICK, MD.

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Week after week during the General Assembly's gathering in Annapolis, House Republicans watched the majority Democrats dismantle much of their legislative agenda - and override Gov. Robert Ehrlich's vetoes of bills the Republicans opposed.

Tired of seeing their efforts thwarted, Western Maryland legislators are fighting back by forming an alliance for the 2006 race. They kicked off their campaign for the Western Maryland Republican Victory Fund on Saturday with a breakfast fundraiser in Frederick featuring former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Their goal is to take complete control of the House seats in the state's westernmost counties. The coming election is "an opportunity to make historic gains" in the House, said Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick.

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And they're almost there - from Frederick County to Garrett County, there are only three Democratic legislators in the General Assembly: Del. John Donoghue in Washington County, Del. Kevin Kelly in Allegany County and Del. Galen Clagett in Frederick County.

The group will be targeting all three of those seats next year, and also hopes to see another Republican elected to the House seat being vacated by House Minority Leader George Edwards of Garrett County, who announced earlier this year that he will be seeking the Senate seat now occupied by Sen. John Hafer, R-Washington/Allegany/Garrett. Hafer has said he will not seek re-election in 2006.

While Kelly frequently votes with the Republicans and is considered an Ehrlich ally, speculation that he might receive a judicial appointment puts that seat into play as well, said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

The slate formed and produced its first fundraiser in about three weeks' time, said Melissa Bartlett, wife of Joseph Bartlett, who helped organize the event. She said 100 to 120 tickets had been sold for it, and that she expects the final tally for the Victory Fund from this first fundraiser will be $15,000 to $17,000.

Shank suggested the fundraiser would have drawn even more had it not taken place on a holiday weekend.

"A lot of people I talked to were very excited about it, but had already planned to be away for the holiday," Shank said.

One of those people, in fact, was Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, who is part of the slate, but already had made other plans for the weekend.

As he introduced Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., noted that when he first ran for Congress from Maryland's Sixth District, the only county with a Republican majority was Garrett. Now, Bartlett said, every county in his district is Republican. As for the state races, Bartlett said "there's a good chance this year we can get rid of all three Democrats" in Western Maryland.

Gingrich told the group that while Democrats once held the majority in his home state of Georgia ("I had to run three times to win," he quipped), Republicans now have taken over many of Georgia's top elected offices.

"It's a process," he said.

Shank said the group, which also includes Dels. Rick Weldon, Patrick Hogan and Paul Stull of Frederick County and Del. Robert A. McKee of Washington County, plans to have more fundraising events, though none have yet been set.

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