By MADELINE MARSHALL
WASHINGTON (January 12, 2012)—The race for Maryland's 6th Congressional District will be a crowded one with eight Republicans and five Democrats filing by Wednesday's deadline.
The candidates are attempting to unseat incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, who has never won a primary election with less than 70 percent of the vote since his first election in 1992. But he has never faced as many challengers.
Even with eight Republican candidates, including state Sen. David R. Brinkley, R-Carroll, and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick, in the race, 85-year-old Bartlett says he's not worried.
Many were expecting Bartlett to retire but he is committed to keeping his seat.
"Every day is one day closer to retirement, but I can't tell you if that's weeks or months from now but obviously it's years. I'm in this race," Bartlett said.
Others running include Republicans Robert Coblentz of Williamsport, Robin Ficker of Bethesda, Joseph Krysztoforski of Frederick, Brandon Orman Rippeon of Bethesda and Peter James of Germantown, with Democrats Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, John Delaney of Potomac, Milad Pooran of Jefferson, Charles Bailey of Sharpsburg and Ron Little of Gaithersburg.
Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney had formed an exploratory committee and weighed running, but he ultimately decided not to and endorsed Bartlett.
Former Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg entered the race early, but withdrew on Jan. 4 due to illness.
"It's going to be a competitive race among both Democrats and Republicans," said political science professor Michael Cain of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
The large number of Republican candidates "does say something about the Republican Party now. ... There are a lot of candidates for president too," Cain said.
Some candidates, like Garagiola and Delaney, are from parts of Montgomery County that were in District 8 until this year's redistricting process, which put roughly half of Montgomery County in the 6th District.
"I would not be running in District 8 because I think Chris Van Hollen is a terrific congressman. I'm a Democrat, and now, based on the redistricting process, it's now an open race," Delaney, an entrepreneur, said.
Redistricting, which occurs every 10 years based on census data, has been controversial this year, with lawsuits claiming racial discrimination and gerrymandering. Because Democrats dominate state government, their party drew the new congressional district maps.
"I was so mad about the redistricting that I decided wasn't going to let them win and I jumped in the race," Afzali said.
She said she believes the 6th District was split for Democratic political gain and has fought against the plan. She hasn't ruled out a petition campaign to stop the redistricting plan approved by Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"Holding this seat for the Republicans is crucial," Afzali said.
Ficker agrees that Democrats drew the 6th District for their own political gain.
"I think the district was drawn to put gas-tax Garagiola in Congress," said Ficker, who lives in Montgomery County and sees the redistricting as a chance to run in an otherwise Democratic area.
"I think the districts were made more fair and representative. It's almost a 50/50 district. So it is a district where you have to fight to win and no one is going to get it for free," said Garagiola's campaign manager Sean Rankin.
Other candidates see it as a challenge, but better for the voters.
"It's going to force all the candidates to talk about the issues instead of people voting by default," said Republican candidate and systems analyst Robert Coblentz.
"It makes it more interesting and it's really better for the voters. They have more options," Coblentz said.
Other primary races around the state are predicted to be less exciting. For example, in the 4th District, former Prince George's County prosecutor Glenn Ivey withdrew from the Democratic primary, clearing the way for incumbent Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington. Ivey said he quit because he could not raise enough money and because of the short time to campaign until the primary. The expiration of the filing deadline also appeared to ensure an uncomplicated path to re-election for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Montgomery, in the 8th District which now includes parts of Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties. Van Hollen will have no primary opposition. However he will face the winner of the Republican race, where attorney Shelly Skolnick of Silver Spring, businessman Dave Wallace of Manchester, tax consultant Augustus Alzona of Bethesda and conservative author Kenneth R. Timmerman of Rockville are vying for the nomination. The Green Party's George Gluck of Rockville, who unsuccessfully contested a seat on the Montgomery County Council in a 2009 special election, is also running to unseat Van Hollen.
Capital News Service reporter Mark Miller also contributed to this article.