GAITHERSBURG – Maryland’s establishment Democrats — stung by the defeat of their favored 6th Congressional District candidate Rob Garagiola on Tuesday — began to make amends the day after the primary.
Sen. Ben Cardin, who handily won his primary; Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis and District 6 Democratic victor John Delaney had lunch Wednesday to discuss plans for the general election fight against incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, and stress competing endorsements did not divide the party.
“The one thing I’m certain about is there is terrific unity in the Democratic Party and we’re all working together,” Delaney said. “I feel tremendous unity.”
But recovery may be more difficult than one lunch can soothe. Garagiola was strongly backed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who less-than-enthusiastically backed Delaney Wednesday.
“Absolutely, I don’t know the gentleman, but if he can raise $800,000 for Hillary Clinton, he’s alright with me,” Miller said, according to The Washington Post’s Maryland Politics blog. Yet, Miller called for Delaney to produce his tax returns, as Garagiola did in the primary, to determine if he made “less money than Mitt Romney.”
“It was a tough race. The people spoke … but what spoke unfortunately the most … was the unlimited dollars, the guy raised twice as much money as Rob did. And then put in $1.5 million of his own money and he was able to … define Rob in a negative way,” the Post quoted Miller as saying.
Garagiola was endorsed by Miller, Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
Rep. Donna Edwards and former President Bill Clinton endorsed Delaney.
Ultimately, Delaney drubbed Garagiola, and Bartlett pulled past his top opponents in Tuesday’s election for the right to face off in November.
The district, represented by Bartlett for the past 20 years, was redrawn and made more Democratic-leaning in last year’s redistricting. That made both party’s primaries very competitive. Bartlett received 43 percent of the vote over his seven challengers and Delaney crushed his four opponents with 54 percent of the vote.
Early in the race, Garagiola was seen as the obvious Democratic nominee and the reason the district was drawn to be more Democratic and include Garagiola’s home. But he didn’t expect much competition.
“Delaney early on got on television and started defining himself and defining the problem of insider politicians … Garagiola was very, very late to respond or to even take Delaney seriously, and that really harmed him,” said St. Mary’s College political science professor Todd Eberly.
Another strike against Garagiola, Eberly said, was, ironically, his endorsements from Maryland’s Democratic establishment, particularly O’Malley, whose plan to increase taxes has been roundly criticized.
“I think that this just wasn’t going to be a year when O’Malley campaigning on your behalf was going to help,” Eberly said.
Tuesday was a “crushing defeat” for Garagiola, said Eberly. Garagiola represents Montgomery County in Annapolis, yet Delaney got almost as many votes from just Montgomery County as Garagiola did from the entire district.
Bartlett also didn’t expect much competition but he ramped up his campaign when serious rivals emerged. In January, he hired Bob Wickers, a strategist who also works for Romney’s campaign, a senior adviser, fundraisers and staff for social media efforts.
“I regretted the fact that there was a big primary battle because it forced us to spend money we should have saved for the general,” Bartlett said.
His campaign spent more than $280,000 through mid-March according to Federal Election Commission filings. All of his competitors combined spent more than $190,000.
The Democratic primary was by far the more expensive one. Delaney spent more than $1.6 million — most of it his own money — and Garagiola spent more than $400,000, according to FEC fillings.
Despite the biggest and most competitive race being fought between the Democrats, more Republican voters showed up Tuesday.
“It could be a suggestion that maybe that district isn’t going to be as Democratic as anticipated,” Eberly said. “When I study voting patterns, I have found that, by and large, those unaffiliated voters vote Republican.”
In the new District 6, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 40,000, but another nearly 66,000 voters registered as unaffiliated.
Delaney and Bartlett will focus on those unaffiliated voters in the November general election.
“Obviously you have to appeal to the independents or else you’re not going to win,” said Bartlett. “More money will be spent (in the general election) because Delaney has more money … We’re going to have enough money to get the message out.”