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Bartlett says he is running for 11th term

November 26, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Representative Roscoe Bartlett receives a Proclamation to be the new lifetime honorary Chairman of the Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Speculation that U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett is about to give up his 6th District seat in Congress is groundless, the 10-term congressman said in an interview about his re-election campaign.

"The job is not done," Bartlett, R-Md., said Tuesday. "We still have too much government. It still taxes too much. It still spends too much. I've been a part of trying to make a difference down there for a while now.

"I'm really honored today to represent the constituents of the 6th District for — this'll be 20 years at the end of this term. I hope that that service has justified another two years."

Bartlett, 85, filed at the end of June to run again in 2012. Yet there has been talk among some observers, including Republicans, that he won't follow through and is ready to retire.

Skeptics have pointed to Bartlett's tepid fundraising in the third quarter of this year — $1,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30 — as a sign of his intentions.

Some Republicans, including state Sen. Christopher B. Shank and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., said they would consider running for the seat if Bartlett didn't.

Bartlett, whose campaign account had nearly $261,000 in cash and no debts in the last filing period, said the recent fundraising total means little.

"We've always had enough money to win, and this time we'll have enough money to win," he said.

Asked why he hasn't been fundraising lately, Bartlett said, "Primaries have not been really tough battles. The election is a long way off. It's nearly a year off. In politics, that's near an eternity, that far off. There's plenty of time."

This year, state lawmakers crafted new boundaries for the state's congressional districts, a mandatory process after each decennial U.S. Census is done.

A swath of Democrat-heavy Montgomery County was moved into the 6th District, giving Bartlett, or any Republican, a tougher challenge for the seat.

The friendlier boundaries have led some Montgomery County Democrats, including state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola, to pursue the seat.

Bartlett said he welcomes a chance to debate Garagiola.

"He says that his agenda is more jobs and a better economy, and I want to ask him when he cast the last vote that would have done that. Because when I look at his votes, all of those votes were for bigger government and more taxes and more regulations, and this is not going to produce more jobs," Bartlett said.

The Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee has challenged the new boundaries on the grounds that it doesn't provide the proper degree of minority representation.

Smithsburg resident Howard L. Gorrell also has filed a lawsuit over the new districts.

Bartlett said Democrats haven't tried to hide their clear effort to unseat him.

"John Paul Stevens, the retired (U.S.) Supreme Court justice, said that what they have done is outrageously unconstitutional," Bartlett said. "I hope that that's in the minds of the three judges that are going to make a decision on the lawsuit filed by the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee."

Even if a court doesn't overrule the new boundaries, Bartlett said he still has a strong chance in 2012. He said his earliest victories in the 6th District came when it was Democratic.

When he won his first congressional election, Garrett was the only Maryland county that was Republican, he said. Now, the 6th District is filled with all-Republican boards of county commissioners.

"I'd like to think that I may have had a little bit to do with making it OK for conservative Democrats to register as Republicans," Bartlett said. "So I've run and won in a Democrat district, so that won't be a new experience for me."

Asked how long he thinks he'll serve, Bartlett said, "You know, I've been asked that question and I don't mean my answer to be flippant, but only God knows. Because as long as He gives me health and the voters give me their vote, I'm honored to represent them."

Bartlett said he has voted for term-limit bills, but "I'm not going to disadvantage the constituents of the 6th District by unilaterally imposing term limits on myself."

Over the years, some people have wondered if Bartlett might step down in the middle of a term and let his son, Joseph R. Bartlett, a state delegate at the time, take over the Congress seat. (Joseph Bartlett didn't run for re-election as a delegate in 2010.)

A different rumor that has circulated recently is that Bartlett might wait until shortly before the Jan. 11, 2012, filing deadline, withdraw from the race and pick someone else to take his place on the ballot.

Bartlett chuckled.

"At some point, I will decide that I'm not running," he said. "I have no idea when that point will come. As I said, it depends on a lot of things, and one of those is my health and my family."

"As of now," he added, "I am running because I want to hold this seat for Republicans. I think that's important that we move in a direction of smaller government and less taxes and less regulation."

Bartlett said his health is "wonderful."

"I'm great," he said. "You know, I chose good parents. They had great genes. I have a great-aunt that lived to be 104. My grandfather died at 96. My father fell and broke his hip and died at 90. My mother at 92. And we have better health care today than they had.

"And so, I've got a lot of years ahead of me, I believe."

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