As jockeying intensifies, pressure on Rep. Bartlett grows

December 1, 2011 - 02:09 PM
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Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.

UPDATE (3:20 p.m.): Because of news reports about his unusual political maneuvering, Bartlett chief of staff Bud Otis has resigned, effective immediately, according to the Gazette.

ORIGINAL STORY: In a sign that even top Maryland Republicans have doubts about a long-serving member of their party, Maryland GOP chair Alex Mooney says he will soon launch a bid for the seat now held by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. The move intensifies pressure on the 85-year-old Bartlett to ramp-up his re-election bid, or step aside.

In a press release distributed late yesterday, Mooney, a former state Senator, said he has created a campaign fundraising committee and “plans to officially file as a candidate for Congress in January.” The release said Mooney was prompted to act by recent news reports that Bartlett’s longtime chief of staff, Bud Otis, is asking prominent Republicans to support his own candidacy in 2012. Otis’s maneuvering, first reported by conservative blog Red Maryland, has been interpreted as a sign that Bartlett isn’t likely to seek an 11th term.

Bartlett’s district, the 6th, got a major makeover during redistricting, courtesy of Gov. O’Malley and the Democrats who control the General Assembly. If the district had existed in 2008, candidate Barack Obama would have beaten John McCain 58 – 42 percent. Despite the new landscape, Bartlett has raised virtually no money for his re-election, a development that has fueled speculation he’s either not running or still on the fence. “He’s not acting like a candidate,” Jim Shalleck, the former head of the Montgomery County Republican Party, tells us.

Otis’s recent conversations “reflect some hesitation about his candidacy that Bartlett needs to resolve,” said Mark Uncapher, current head of the Montgomery GOP.

Asked nearly three weeks ago if he planned to seek re-election, spokeswoman Lisa Wright offered no reply. Asked again today, she responded with a one-word e-mail, “YES.” She has told other reporters that Otis has made it clear he would not run if Bartlett seeks another term.

Uncapher tells NewsChannel 8 that state Sen. David Brinkley has made it clear he’s running for Congress whether Bartlett runs or not. The Washington Post says state Sen. Christopher Shank is also considering a run.

The Democratic primary will include Montgomery County state Sen. Rob Garagiola (a protégé of Senate President Mike Miller), former Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and— according to the Post — financier John K. Delaney.

In a phone interview late this afternoon, Bartlett told us he's hopeful a court challenge to the Democrats' redistricting plan will be successful, but "one way or another, we're running."  He denied having a "pass the torch" deal with Otis, and said he's confident he can overcome the challenges a new district brings. 

"I've run and won in Democrat districts before," he said.

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