WASHINGTON – Timothy McCown has no entourage of aides and advisers in his bid for Maryland’s 6th District congressional seat. The Democrat has very little money, no television or radio ads or road signs.
What McCown does have is a good pair of sneakers.
On Oct. 24, he plans to lace them up for a weeklong walk across the Western Maryland district to get out the vote in his attempt to unseat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick.
“I’m running a populist campaign. I’m not taking any [political action committee] money or special interest cash,” said McCown.
“When you don’t have the big PAC money you have to come up with creative ways to get your message out there,” said the Jefferson resident. “I’ll at least get some exercise out of it.”
That may be all he gets out of it, according to pollsters.
“It would take some major misstep on Bartlett’s part for McCown to have a chance of winning the election,” said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Survey Research.
“The problem for any Democrat is to overcome the mounting Republican momentum in the [6th] district,” said Haller. “It’s the largest district in Maryland area-wise and it’s conservative at its roots. Politically, it’s very conservative and becomes more Republican with each passing election.
“Bartlett is the most conservative member of Maryland’s congressional delegation and is much in line with the Republican leadership,” he said.
Bartlett’s voting record won perfect scores from groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, the Chamber of Commerce, the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition. Groups like Americans for Democratic Action and the American Civil Liberties Union, by comparison, scored him from zero into the teens.
“He has a lifetime score of 100 with the ACU,” said Tom Catina, executive director of the American Conservative Union. “I don’t think there is anyone else with a perfect record, not even [North Carolina Republican Sen.] Jesse Helms.
“He [Bartlett] is a very strong conservative and there’s no question about his position,” said Catina.
Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Joyce Terhes said Bartlett “fits the district like a glove.”
The largely rural district, stretching from west from Carroll and Howard counties, is the only congressional district in the state with a Republican majority. There are 168,078 registered Republicans in the district to 149,475 Democrats.
But Tom Slater, chairman of the Frederick County Democratic Committee, said Bartlett has lost focus on the issues most important to constituents.
“Roscoe’s anti-working class. He’s for the wealthy and big business,” said Slater. “He’s a hard-line conservative who is out of touch with the district.”
McCown, who describes himself as “in the middle,” said his success will hinge on whether he can secure the moderate vote in the district.
Terhes doubts that will happen.
“That part of Western Maryland has more registered Republicans and his [Bartlett’s] voting record and opinion on the issues suits his constituents,” said Terhes. “He’s got a win on November 3.”
McCown’s race is further hampered by his lack of funds. Bartlett had raised $414,144 as of the Sept. 15 primary to McCown’s $2,231, an amount Haller called “laughable.”
“It would take a few hundred thousand dollars at least to reach the wide media market to get your message out there. A district like that can’t be won by going on radio talk shows and shaking hands,” said Haller.
Haller said McCown’s funding indicates the national Democratic Party isn’t taking the race seriously.
“It’s surprising that [the Democratic Party] wouldn’t have found someone more competitive, considering they held the position for 20 years,” Haller said.
Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Peter Krauser said the party is “hopeful. We’re very supportive of Mr. McCown.”
McCown, 48, plans to carry his campaign all the way to the finish line.
“We need someone who works for a living … to show people that working class people can participate,” said McCown, of his campaign “to bring middle America back to the political process.”
The former substance-abuse addiction counselor sold his share of a counseling program last month to run for office full time. He began his campaign a year ago promising to rebuild the Western Maryland economy and stimulate job growth by building roads and improving the district’s infrastructure.
“I want to cut taxes to make it more desirable for businesses to do business in Western Maryland,” he said.
But the theme of his campaign in recent weeks has shifted to the Clinton scandal, said McCown, who touts himself as the first Democratic candidate in the country to call for the president’s resignation.
McCown said calling for President Clinton’s resignation was right in line with voter opinion.
“Being first to come out and call for his resignation puts me in the unique position of lecturing the conservatives on morality which, believe it or not, means a great deal here,” said McCown.
On that, at least, the two men agree.
“I’m pleased that morality is the number one issue. The awakening of moral issues to come out of the whole tawdry thing could well have made the matter a blessing in disguise,” said Bartlett, who said his constituents “are also concerned about education and crime.”
Bartlett, 72, who chairs the subcommittee on Government Programs and Oversight and is a member of the National Security and Science Committees, said he wants to continue working to cut taxes and government regulations and to return power to the states.
“The average household spends all the salary of one spouse and 4 percent of the other to support government. This makes it difficult for most women to stay home if they chose,” he said, which has translated into “low test scores and rising juvenile delinquency.”
Bartlett was a teacher and inventor before launching an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1990. He was elected to the House in 1992.
He said he has attended every candidate forum so far in this campaign and plans several sign-waving events now that Congress is out of session.
“I’ve been actively campaigning for six years by working for the people of the district,” Bartlett said. “Every moment I’m not on the Hill, I’m at home in the district.”
But McCown said Bartlett is out of touch with constituents and “cocky enough to think that the race is already sewn up.”
“People around here are pretty fed up with politics. They’re pretty apolitical,” McCown said. “But the higher the voter turnout, the better things are for me. If you can convince people that A: their vote counts and B: you’re different than the typical politician, you can get them out to vote.”
Bartlett said he believes the voters are happy with the job he is doing and will reward him with a fourth term.
“We don’t do polls to see what constituents think of my job performance but I don’t get one bad letter in a hundred. I think that speaks to voter satisfaction,” he said.