COLLEGE PARK – Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, filed for re-election to his 6th District seat to “send a strong message” to voters and potential challengers, a campaign aide said.
Stronger than the $325,000 fund-raising lead he currently holds on the challengers who have already filed. Stronger than the margins of victory in past elections in which Bartlett routinely wins 60 or 70 percent of the vote.
“There was a rumor going around that he was going to retire,” said Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle, who unsuccessfully challenged Bartlett for the GOP nomination in 2004. “That (early filing) will certainly end speculation.”
Bartlett, 79, actually kicked off his 2006 re-election efforts on May 16 when House Speaker Dennis Hastert visited Frederick for a fund-raiser. That was followed by a series of Open Door meetings in early June, when Bartlett met with residents to discuss issues throughout the sprawling 6th District, which runs along the northern edge of the state from Garrett to Baltimore counties, and as far south as Montgomery County.
“After the kick-off with Speaker Hastert we went ahead and filed for re-election,” in July, said Melissa Bartlett, a spokeswoman for her father-in-law’s campaign.
Only two other candidates have officially filed to run in the 6th District, Democrats Barry Kissin and Andrew Duck. A third Democrat, Savas Karas, has said he is running but has yet to file his candidacy.
None of the three Democrats has raised the $5,000 in campaign donations that would require them to file a report with the Federal Election Commission.
Bartlett, by comparison, had raised more than $120,000 in the second quarter of this year and spent more than $53,000, according to his latest filing with the FEC. The report said that, as of June 30, the seven-term incumbent had more than $325,000 cash on hand.
Melissa Bartlett was not apologetic about Bartlett’s financial lead, saying successful fund-raising is at “the heart of the matter of a political campaign.”
“We have a duty to our constituents to prepare for re-election whether there’s a strong challenger or not,” she said.
In 2004, Bartlett faced a stiff challenge from Rolle, but went on to win 70 percent of the vote in the primary. His general election victory was almost as lopsided, winning 68 percent of the vote from Democrat Kenneth Bosley.
Rolle tried to win over Bartlett’s conservative base by citing the incumbent’s lukewarm support of the Patriot Act and his stance against the death penalty. He said he realizes now that his belief that voters were ready for a change “was mistaken.”
His own FEC report showed that Rolle had raised $5,500 this year, spent more than $6,400 and is currently a little over $18,300 in debt. But he said he has no intention of running again in 2006.
“That race wasn’t personal,” Rolle said of the 2004 campaign. “He can count me as his most ardent supporter and call on me if he needs my help. Which he won’t.”
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