WASHINGTON – At age 71, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is the 10th oldest member of the 435-member House of Representatives.
But the Western Maryland Republican has no plans of slowing down. In fact, he plans on running for re-election next year and again in the year 2000.
“I have every intention of serving under a Republican president,” said the third-term congressman. “So if I want to do that, I have to run next year.”
And that’s bad news for Democrats.
Since capturing the traditionally Democratic-held seat in 1992, Bartlett has solidified a once-vulnerable political base, political analysts said.
“He’s caught his stride, turned himself around and kept a strong hold on the district,” said Amy Walter, a congressional analyst for Cook & Company, which forecasts elections in the Cook Political Report.
The 6th Congressional District’s rating in the Cook Political Report has improved from “leaning Republican” to “solid Republican.”
“That’s a tough seat for us,” conceded Rep. Martin Frost, D- Texas, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
With less than one year to go before Election Day ’98, the Democrats still don’t have a candidate.
“My impression is that none of the folks that have been real active politically and are well known are planning to run,” said Stephen Crawford, who lost to Bartlett last year 53-47 percent.
Both Crawford, executive director of the Governor’s Work Force Investment Board, and D. Bruce Poole, a state delegate from Washington County, have ruled out runs in 1998.
“It’s not going to be me,” Poole said. “My greatest fear is that there’s an outside chance that I might win.”
Without a candidate in place, some Democrats are worrying that it’s already too late to mount a credible challenge.
“The financial cost is prohibitive,” said James Ortiz, chairman of the Allegany County Democratic Central Committee. “I doubt someone can raise funds in such short notice.”
Bartlett had $218,530 in his campaign account on June 30, nearly as much as he spent last year in defeating Crawford, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Some Democrats are already looking ahead to the year 2000 in the hopes that Maryland House Speaker Casper Taylor of Allegany County might be their candidate.
“Cas Taylor remains a very strong candidate,” Crawford said. “He’s made it clear he’s going to run for his seat in the House of Delegates this time.”
Through an aide, Taylor declined to comment about the possibilities of a 2000 congressional run.
Republicans attribute Bartlett’s popularity in the district, which has a slight GOP voter registration advantage, to his conservative stances.
“The 6th Congressional District is primarily a conservative district,” said Tom Bowen, chairman of the Carroll County Republican Party. “He is a true conservative that sits well with the district.”
Bartlett has voted with the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition 100 percent of the time. On the other hand, Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, has given him a zero rating, compared to a 5 percent rating for nationally known conservative Sen. Jesse A. Helms, R-N.C.
Bartlett voted against President Clinton 83 percent of the time in 1995 and voted with the Republican Party 97 percent of the time. His votes also show a strong support for the conservative coalition, voting with it 99 percent of the time, according to Congressional Quarterly.
“I’m one of the luckiest members of Congress,” Bartlett said. “I’m able to vote my conscience and that’s OK with my district. That’s very nice.”