WASHINGTON – Former Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty shocked two-time candidate Andrew Duck in Maryland’s 6th District Democratic congressional primary Tuesday, relying on her government experience to carry her to victory.
Dougherty was chipper the morning after defeating Duck with 44 percent of the vote to his 37 percent.
The experience and leadership from Frederick that made her the best Democratic candidate would translate well to November’s showdown with eight-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, she said.
“I don’t have to change who I am or what my message is,” for the general election, said Dougherty. “I was the only person who balanced a budget and also created jobs in the private sector.”
Dougherty thinks she’ll get a big boost in November from voters dissatisfied with what she said is a disconnect between Bartlett and 6th District voters.
“He says he hasn’t changed in 16 years — well, everyone changes and it’s important,” she said. “We’re not changing our moral code here, but we’re evolving to the world as it is. If you’re not looking at the way the world is now, you’re clearly not representing the district well.”
Keith Haller, president of media polling company Potomac Inc., said a Dougherty victory in November is certainly a possibility.
“There’s no question, there’s an undercurrent of change and questioning of the status quo,” Haller said. “If you’re an incumbent member of Congress you’d be smart to watch your backside — voters are not just going to roll over for two more years.”
The effects of this are showing — in Tuesday’s primary, Maryland voters ousted two incumbent members of Congress: Al Wynn, D-Mitchellville, and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville.
This trend is going to be particularly hard on Republicans, Haller said.
“I’d throw out all the playbooks Bartlett has used in previous re-elections — he’ll have to fight for every vote,” Haller said. “You don’t want to get whipsawed by an Obama candidacy with a turnout of voters you’ve never seen before in a 6th Congressional District race.”
However, Haller said it’ll still be a very steep uphill battle for a Dougherty win, since she’s unlikely to convince many conservatives.
“The basis for a Dougherty victory will require her generating large support among independent voters,” he said. “But number one, she’s got to get the maximum Democratic vote — that’s her tried-and-true credential.”
Mike Cryor, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said he sees “a great opportunity” for Jennifer Dougherty in the 6th District.
“The possibility we could actually win in two districts in the same year is absolutely amazing,” Cryor said, referring to the 6th and 1st District, where Gilchrest, a moderate Republican, was unseated in his primary by more conservative state Sen. Andrew Harris. The lack of an incumbent and the slight edge Democrats have in registration there present an opportunity for the Democrats.
Cryor said the state party hasn’t decided how it will allocate its funds this year, but its strategy will likely involve the 6th District.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said the district will be on its watch list of races to fund.
“We will very closely monitor the 6th District and there’s certainly potential there, so it is an opportunity,” Van Hollen said.
In the 6th district, Democrats are excited to see their party is registering more people than the Republicans are. Between the 2006 general election and the registration deadline for Tuesday’s primary, Democrats registered 4,425 new party members, compared to 3,364 new Republicans.
This could be attributable to increasing urban sprawl from Washington — particularly the resulting boom in Frederick.
However, registered Republicans still outnumber Democrats 4-to-3. Because of this, former Maryland Democratic Secretary of State John T. Willis said he thinks Dougherty still has a serious battle going into November.
“That’s the hardest district,” Willis said. “She’ll make it very interesting, and I think she’ll get some national interest and support that Andrew (Duck) did not have, and some of the past candidates did not have.”
Duck was thought to be the front-runner going in to the race, having campaigned non-stop since the 2006 congressional election cycle, when Roscoe Bartlett defeated him 59 percent to 38 percent.
However, that was the closest any candidate had gotten to Bartlett in some time. In the 2004 general election, Bartlett defeated the Democratic nominee, Kenneth Bosley, 67 percent to 29 percent.
But when Dougherty entered the race last fall, her record apparently overshadowed his three years of grassroots campaigning.
Last week, Duck said that he was “not focused on Jennifer Dougherty,” instead saying he was concentrating his resources on preparing for a showdown Roscoe Bartlett — apparently confident in a primary win.
Duck could not be reached for comment following the election, but Dougherty said she spoke to him and he planned to support her candidacy.
As for Bartlett, it seems he’s prepared for a battle in the general election. In an e-mailed statement, he said voters were familiar with his record and could count on him.
Dougherty, he said, was just another Democrat, and voters had already rejected her once — as an incumbent trying to retain Democratic nomination for mayor of Frederick.
“The Democrats who know Dougherty best rejected her re-election after one term in office. Now, Democrats have rejected their 2006 nominee. I think that reflects dissatisfaction with their leaders among Democrats in the 6th District.”