WASHINGTON -- Running for reelection in a new district that is no longer a GOP stronghold, incumbent Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett announced Wednesday he had scored an endorsement from a former Democratic congressman from Mississippi.
The move came hours after the 10-term incumbent said in a televised debate that he is "conflicted" about a question on the Nov. 6 ballot in Maryland that would allow illegal immigrants to attend state universities and colleges at in-state tuition rates.
Both announcements were geared toward moderating some of Bartlett's more conservative positions after Democrats in Annapolis redrew Maryland's 6th Congressional District to include some 300,000 new voters in Democrat-rich Montgomery County.
Bartlett announced Wednesday he had been endorsed by Gene Taylor, a conservative Democrat who represented Mississippi from 1989 through 2010. Taylor, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, lost in the 2010 GOP wave election in part because, like many Republicans in swing districts across the country, his opponent sought to tie him to Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi.
By contrast, Bartlett has been working hard to drop Pelosi's name. He noted his relationship with the former House speaker from California during Tuesday night's debate, which was broadcast live on WUSA in Washington, D.C., as an example of his bipartisanship.
"I've traveled twice with Nancy Pelosi," Bartlett said. "She asked me to sit with her" during the 2011 State of the Union address.
Bartlett is running what most consider an uphill fight against Democrat John Delaney.
Delaney has sought to characterize Bartlett as a tea party conservative. While it is true the congressman was an early member of the House tea party caucus, that group had little to do with the grass roots movement that sprang up across the country in 2009. Bartlett has occasionally broken with GOP leadership and is not generally considered among the most conservative members of Congress.
Yet, despite the new district, he has maintained conservative positions on several issues. He has argued in several debates that the federal government should not have any role in education, for instance. During Tuesday's debate he questioned whether any federal regulations are needed to protect consumers.
"We don't need regulations to protect citizens, we don't need regulations to keep businesses and people who are providing goods from screwing the public," Bartlett said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun