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Rep. Bartlett's anti-slots involvement criticized

September 23, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Two challengers running against U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett say his involvement in an anti-slots movement in Maryland might be inappropriate.

Bartlett has joined the steering committee of Marylanders United to Stop Slots, a coalition of state and local officials from both major political parties, along with business and religious groups.

A Nov. 4 ballot measure asks Maryland voters if they want to amend the state constitution to legalize up to 15,000 slot machines in five counties.

Gov. Martin O'Malley and other top Democrats are lobbying for slots as a revenue source that could head off another tax increase.

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Bartlett, R-Md., said Monday he entered the fray "kind of reluctantly." He shies away from stances on local issues, he said, but he's opposed to the spread of state-sponsored gambling.

"This is a moral issue to me," he said.

Bartlett said he couldn't say the Lord's Prayer - "Lead me not into temptation" - without fighting what he called "a cruel hoax" on people trying to become wealthier.

Democrat Jennifer Dougherty, who is running against Bartlett, said members of Congress have the same right to speak out as other citizens.

However, "you learn to hold your fire if it's not your fight," said Dougherty, a former Frederick, Md., mayor.

She said voters should get to decide on slots and the money they'd generate for education funding.

Libertarian candidate Gary W. Hoover Sr. said he's disappointed Bartlett, a state's rights supporter, injected himself into the debate.

"The fact that he is a Congressman brings with it the power of his office," Hoover said.

He said members of Congress should keep views on issues outside the scope of their office to themselves.

For years opposed to the effort to legalize slot machines, Bartlett said he's getting involved now at the request of Peter Franchot, Maryland's Democratic comptroller.

"No one asked me before," Bartlett said.

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