WASHINGTON – Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle told a packed ballroom of supporters Wednesday that he is challenging fellow Republican Roscoe Bartlett, the longtime congressman from Maryland’s 6th District.
“We’ve checked the pulse of the community. We put our fingers in the wind, and the winds of change are blowing,” Rolle told the crowd in a banquet room above Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar in Frederick.
Rolle, 42, said that unseating the 77-year-old Bartlett is a challenge he believes he can win. He said that when he first ran for state’s attorney in 1994, he beat three-term incumbent Lawrence “Tom” Dorsey Jr.
“We are committed to this race. We are in it to win,” Rolle said.
But a spokesman for Bartlett’s campaign said the six-term incumbent is confident he will win the March 2 primary.
“We’re disappointed that Scott has chosen to take on another Republican instead of running for another office where he could take on a Democrat,” said Jim Dornan, the spokesman. “He’s (Bartlett) going to decide when he’ll retire, and we won’t be pushed out by some guy trying to climb up the ladder.”
Dornan said Bartlett is not afraid of a challenge, noting that when he first ran for the seat it had been held by Democratic incumbent Beverly Byron for 14 years.
“He took the seat in 1992 when no one would run against Beverly,” Dornan said.
Rolle, a self-proclaimed “consistent conservative,” said his views better reflect traditional Republican viewpoints than his opponent. He cited his support of the death penalty, as an example. Bartlett has said he is against the death penalty.
Rolle listed his top priorities: Supporting the war on terrorism and President Bush, helping senior citizens get access to prescription drugs and ensuring veterans receive top-quality care and housing facilities.
“Our veterans deserve better, and with Scott Rolle in Congress, they will get it,” he said.
The challenger said the when he recently visited with soldiers who had returned from Iraq, they told him that what is most important to them is to “support their commander-in-chief so that they can come home.”
He is optimistic that the election of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich is just a first step for the largely Democratic state — and he wants to be part of the move for change, he said.
“I also believe that this race is . . . about building the Republican Party,” Rolle said.
The 6th District, which stretches from Western Maryland across the northern edge of the state, is one of the most heavily Republican districts in the state.
There is one Democrat in the race so far: Kevin Shaffer, who finished second in the 2002 Democratic primary, officially filed his 2004 candidacy Monday.