COLLEGE PARK – Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, has been elected seven times by wide margins and has 10 times as much money in the bank as his nearest challenger, but his campaign is taking no chances.
“The congressman goes and knocks on as many doors as possible. It takes time and effort to win, you have to meet the people,” said Melissa Bartlett, his campaign manager.
“We have to consider everything, not just money,” she said.
Don’t tell that to Savas Karas, a Democratic challenger who dropped out of the race July 25.
“The whole thing I found out about politics is that it’s not about your message it’s about how much money you raise,” Karas said. “People would ask, ‘Do you have $100,000 in the bank?’ and I’d say no and they’d say, ‘Call back when you have $100,000.'”
That has not fazed the remaining challengers, who think the time is ripe for an upset, despite Bartlett’s advantages in money and name recognition.
“Savas and I are very different, I will not drop out of the race because of money,” said Barry Kissin. The Democrat contributed $26,759 of his own money to his campaign, which had raised a total of $30,409 by June 30, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Bartlett, by comparison, reported spending $133,999 by June 30 and still having $361,000 cash on hand.
His closest challenger in fundraising is Democrat Andrew Duck, who had raised $101,315, spent $80,775 and had $20,539 on hand, according to the FEC. Lone Republican challenger Joseph T. Krysztoforski said he has raised about $22,000 for his campaign, but he had not filed a report with the FEC as of June 30.
Krysztoforski said he was urged to run by Republicans who believe it is time for someone “younger and more energetic” than Bartlett, who has been in office for 14 years.
Duck and Kissin believe voters want a change, too, but they think Bartlett will lose because of his association with President Bush and the Republican Party.
“There is wide dissatisfaction with Bartlett,” said Robert Kellar, Duck’s campaign manager. “Bartlett is almost completely disconnected with the district. His name recognition and money will come back to haunt him.”
Kissin said Bartlett does not act on behalf of his constituents and has only been re-elected because he has not had a real challenger.
“I recognize that Bartlett has been winning, but the world is off-course and things have to change and they have to change now,” Kissin said.
Local Democratic leaders said both Kissin and Duck have done a good job of getting that message out.
“They have been very visible, they’re out in the community talking to people, focusing a lot on the Democratic vote and I think they’ll be credible,” said Robert Kresslein, chairman of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee.
“There is a decent chance that the incumbent could lose because of the disapproval with the Bush administration, Republican Congress and the general direction that the country is going,” Kresslein said.
One Republican called that “wishful thinking.”
“Without a doubt, Bartlett will win, I’d put all my money on it,” said Tom Reinheimer, the chairman for the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.
“Bartlett best represents the values and beliefs of constituents in the district and that district would not be best represented by a Democrat,” he said.
Pollster Patrick Gonzales, co-owner of Gonzales/Boyd Political Consulting, agreed that the 6th District is staunchly conservative and Republican and he doubted that Bartlett’s association with the president will harm him in the general election.
“The president’s association will not have impact, not enough to cost Bartlett the election,” Gonzales said.
Bartlett’s financial advantage cannot be ignored either, said Paul S. Herrnson, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“Voters in the 6th District may be dissatisfied with Bartlett, but unless a challenger can raise the money to get his message out then Bartlett will win easily,” Herrnson said.
Which was the painful lesson that Karas learned.
“Everyone should run for office because we would completely change how we do politics,” he said.
-30- CNS 08-24-06