By GRAHAM MOOMAW
ANNAPOLIS (March 19, 2010)—Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz solidified his candidacy for U.S. Senate by filing his candidacy papers Friday morning at the State Board of Elections in Annapolis.
In an interview with Capital News Service just before filing his candidacy, Wargotz said he considers himself a "constitutional conservative" and an "Old Testament kind of guy."
Challenging Sen. Barbara Mikulski will be no easy task for Wargotz, a physician making his first attempt at statewide elected office. A February Rasmussen poll showed Mikulski leading an unnamed Republican challenger 54 percent to 36 percent. At the end of 2009, Mikulski had more than $2 million in her campaign war chest.
Wargotz said he knew he was a long shot when he first thought about running in June, but his chances have improved as time has gone on and Republican electoral victories have added up.
"Since that time, that path to victory has widened and the light at the end of the path has brightened," said Wargotz. "Things continue to move in the right direction."
"No guts, no glory," said Don Murphy, a GOP strategist who's working with the Wargotz campaign.
Wargotz said his campaign will focus on four main issues: fiscal responsibility, health care, national security and the Chesapeake Bay.
On fiscal responsibility and national security, he's running on a fairly standard Republican platform. He said the economy can be stimulated by creating incentives for private enterprise rather than spending more on stimulus packages. On national security, he opposes civilian trials for terrorist suspects and said the U.S. should "complete the job" in Afghanistan.
One notable difference between Wargotz and the typical Republican platform is his support for medical marijuana, which he says helps ease people's pain and shouldn't be subject to government intrusion.
Wargotz said he hopes his experience as a physician will give him some credibility on the health care issue. He called the current health care bill the "biggest government taking in the history of the United States," but said he would like to see some changes to the health care system involving ideas like tort reform and buying insurance across state lines.
Wargotz criticized the Maryland congressional delegation—Mikulski in particular—for failing to put to good use the federal dollars meant to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
"She has been leading the fight to get more money to clean up the bay for 33 years," Wargotz said. "But the bay is in worse shape now than when she entered the halls of Congress."
A mini-controversy entangled Wargotz after the February Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. In a video interview with blogger Mike Stark, Wargotz said he doesn't believe President Barack Obama was born in the United States, leading to a wave of blog posts labeling Wargotz a "birther."
Wargotz clarified his position on the issue, saying that he has questions and concerns about where Obama was born, but he believes Obama is a natural-born citizen because he was born to an American parent.
"I've never questioned his citizenship or his constitutionality to sit as president," Wargotz said, adding that he doesn't want to focus on the issue because it's not important if you accept Obama as an American citizen.
By filing with the elections board, Wargotz joins attorney Jim Rutledge, former Maryland Delegate Carmen Amedori, engineer Daniel McAndrew, and perennial candidate Corrogan Vaughn, all of whom have already filed to run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
Wargotz said he's confident in his primary chances because he brings a different perspective as a physician, he's the only sitting elected official in the field and he already has a statewide campaign organization in place. According to FEC reports dating through the end of December, Wargotz was the most well-funded Republican in the primary with $176,526 in donations for 2009, including $75,000 of his own money.
"We are best-positioned to get this done," said Wargotz.
The primary is scheduled for Sept. 14.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.