By Rolando Garcia
WASHINGTON – After two unsuccessful bids to unseat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, Democrat Donald DeArmon is throwing the in towel.
DeArmon has filed notice with the Federal Election Commission that he closed his fund-raising account, leaving the field to Bartlett, who reported raising about $20,000 this year and having a total of $133,000 in his campaign war chest.
“After running twice, (DeArmon) decided he should spend his personal energies on his family and his career,” said Paul Littman, DeArmon’s campaign treasurer.
DeArmon was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
But while DeArmon is giving up, Maryland Democratic Party officials said they still hope to mount a vigorous challenge to Bartlett in the heavily Republican 6th District.
“(Bartlett) is not invulnerable, and a good candidate could put up a fight,” said Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party.
DeArmon, a veteran congressional staffer, lost to Bartlett in 2000 and 2002 by wide margins, but White said the party is not ready to give up. Several individuals have expressed interest in the race, he said, although none have yet declared.
The prospective recruit must not only be able to raise enough money to be competitive, White said, but must also be willing to campaign hard and articulate a moderate platform that contrasts with Bartlett’s more conservative record.
Littman said the party would need to recruit a moderate to conservative Democrat in tune with Western Maryland values to have a chance of winning the seat.
While Bartlett’s fund raising this year is much less than the six-figure bundles raised by the state’s seven other House members, the conservatism of Western Maryland voters and Bartlett’s painstaking constituent service means he has the luxury of a leisurely fund-raising operation, said Eric Sutton, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.
“The Democrats’ chances of winning that seat are slim to none, and I’d be surprised if they put up a strong candidate,” Sutton said.
Most of Bartlett’s contributions — about 90 percent — are from individuals, and the rest from political action committees. In past election cycles, Bartlett has received about one-fourth of his campaign funds from PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan political watchdog group.
With the general election still 15 months away, Bartlett has few campaign expenditures, spending only $7,000 for the first half of the year, mostly on printing costs and donations to county Republican committees.
Besides a fund-raising letter sent to supporters earlier this year, the campaign has seen little activity so far, said Bartlett spokeswoman Sallie Taylor. She said he does not plan an extensive fund-raising effort unless a credible Democratic challenger emerges.
“It all depends on what kind of race we have,” Taylor said. “(Bartlett) doesn’t raise money for recreation.”
Bartlett’s campaigns are traditionally relatively low-cost affairs. He spent less than any other Maryland congressman in the 2002 election and was outspent by DeArmon in 2000. Bartlett spent about $230,000 in both races.
The district is a relatively inexpensive one to run in, and Bartlett counts on the high visibility he has gained through 10 years of constituent work and meetings with voters, Taylor said.
The 2001 redistricting process put the district even further out of Democrats’ reach, Taylor said, by adding more Republican areas to it and reducing the need for Bartlett to run expensive campaigns.
Also, Bartlett’s conservative record is well known in the district and is a good fit for Western Maryland voters, she said.
“People here know Congressman Bartlett and where he stands on the issues,” Taylor said. “All the money in the world won’t save your seat if you’re not a good match for your district and you’re not representing your constituents.”