CHARLOTTE, N.C. – John Delaney, the Democratic challenger for the U.S. House seat in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, drew praise on Tuesday from many of the same Maryland Democratic politicians who had shunned him during his primary battle.
The praise came at a luncheon for the Maryland delegation to the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. Delaney was the luncheon’s keynote speaker.
Delaney emerged as the Democratic candidate after winning a hard-fought and expensive April primary, in which most of the state’s Democratic elite, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, backed his opponent, state Sen. Robert Garagiola.
The invitation to speak at the luncheon, where he sat next to Gov. Martin O’Malley, represents the culmination of Maryland Democrats’ rallying around Delaney.
“I’ve been supporting him for weeks,” joked Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, in introducing Delaney. “I supported the other guy in the primary, but I am so proud he (Delaney) is going to be my colleague.”
The Delaney campaign downplayed the importance of the speech.
“It was an honor to be asked to keynote the Maryland lunch on Tuesday,” said Justin Schall,
Delaney’s campaign manager, earlier. “But congressional campaigns aren’t won at conventions. We’re flying in late Monday and leaving right after the speech on Tuesday.”
When Maryland’s congressional districts were redrawn in the spring, the 6th District was changed to include much of predominantly Democratic Montgomery County. Political observers say the district was redrawn with the express intent of targeting 10-term Republican incumbent, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. The end result was a hotly contested Democratic primary for the chance to take on a Republican incumbent in a district that suddenly leans Democratic.
The most recent publicly available poll, conducted by a Democratic PAC and released on July 31, gives Delaney a two-point lead. Many analysts have put Delaney’s odds at much better than even.
The gap may have widened further in recent weeks as the Delaney campaign and surrogates within the Maryland Democratic Party have acted aggressively in linking Bartlett to the roundly denounced comments of Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., regarding abortion and rape.
Bartlett, with Akin and others, has been a co-sponsor of multiple bills to ban abortion in all instances.
After his primary win, Delaney was roundly endorsed by Democratic officials, including Garagiola and O’Malley.
Before the primary, the Delaney campaign had received just two contributions from Democratic committees and PACs, totaling $6,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Following his primary victory, the floodgates of the Democratic establishment opened. In the first three months after the primary, the Delaney campaign received 56 donations from Democratic committees, ranging in amounts from $500 to $5,000, according to FEC filings. Delaney got money from such Democratic stalwarts as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the United Auto Workers.
Delaney also got donations, after the primary, from the campaigns of Maryland Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings, Hoyer, John Sarbanes, and Donna Edwards.
Delaney, a multi-millionaire, would seem less dependent on party financial help than the average congressional challenger. As of June 30, even after the late support from the Democratic establishment, Delaney had given his own campaign more than $1.7 million, accounting for 58 percent of all donations to his campaign, according to F.E.C. filings. In the primary, Delaney outspent Garagiola by greater than a three-to-one margin.
Edwards boosted Delaney during her remarks at the luncheon, calling him a real job creator.
“It’s not enough to have a president who’s like the pitcher on the field,” Edwards said. “We need to make sure we have a team behind him, and that’s why we need John Delaney.”
Schall emphasized the campaign’s focus on grassroots organizing rather than the higher profile convention speech.
“We’ve spent our entire summer living in the district,” Schall said. “We’ve gone to every county fair and parade and we’ve also had very large volunteer events — we call them Delaney barbecues — in each county…those are really focused on energizing and exciting the base.”
Bartlett skipped last week’s Republican convention to campaign in the district. He has not attended a national convention since 1996.
Delaney, who co-founded the commercial lender CapitalSource and was the youngest ever CEO of a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, touted his business expertise, as he has been doing on the campaign trail. “It (business career) has given me an insight into what’s really needed in our country to create jobs and to do it through the lens of Democratic values: equality, justice, and fairness.”