Candidates make final push before Tuesday primary vote

GERMANTOWN — — Candidates in Maryland's competitive political contests fanned out across the state for a final weekend of handshaking ahead of Tuesday's primary, hoping to gin up interest in an election that has largely failed to capture voters' attention.

They spoke at forums, attended rallies and walked through battleground neighborhoods knocking on doors, leaving trails of colorful campaign literature and yard signs behind as they raced to the next event. The main mission: Reminding supporters to turn out.

At stake in Tuesday's primary election are the Democratic and Republican nominations for a nationally significant House of Representatives seat in Western Maryland and up to 37 delegates that voters will award to one or more of the GOP presidential candidates.

Despite the best efforts of the campaigns, turnout is expected to be low, as it has been in other presidential primaries this year. Most of the Republican candidates swung through Maryland — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be in Frederick Monday — but the focus in the presidential contest has mostly been on Wisconsin, which also votes Tuesday.

Candidates were especially active in the state's most high-profile race, the battle for the Democratic nomination in Maryland's 6th Congressional District. State Sen. Rob Garagiola, a leading contender, moved from door to door in a complex of town homes here, reminding voters of his lengthy list of endorsements and asking for their support.

"I'm feeling good," Garagiola said between homes, a stack of campaign flyers in his hand. "There's a lot of energy — a lot of feedback."

Tim Doherty, a 48-year-old federal worker, said he had intended to vote for Garagiola even before the candidate came knocking on his door Sunday. Doherty said he appreciated that Garagiola has emphasized his efforts at breaking through partisan gridlock.

"Congress doesn't seem to want to work together. They're not getting anything done," Doherty said. "It seems to be party before country these days."

Another top challenger in the race, banker John Delaney, put his family to work, with his parents coming in to help make phone calls to possible voters. Delaney also knocked on doors in Montgomery County over the weekend and attended a meet-and-greet at a supporter's home in Gaithersburg.

"We're in a great position," Delaney said. "I think our message has been well received."

Both campaigns launched robocalls in the district featuring well-known Democratic officials who are backing their bid for office. Delaney's included a recorded message from former President Bill Clinton while Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley recorded a call for Garagiola. O'Malley endorsed Garagiola on Thursday.

Another Democratic candidate, Jefferson physician Milad Pooran, crisscrossed the district in an RV.

But it was the contest for the Republican nomination in the 6th District that created the most fireworks over the weekend. Opponents of state Sen. David R. Brinkley released a recording of a 911 call placed during a 2008 domestic dispute at his home. No charges were filed in the incident.

In a statement, Brinkley's campaign blamed the attack on Republican incumbent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, calling the move a "pathetic act of desperation."

"After 20 years in office and a half dozen debates Bartlett cannot point to even one legislative accomplishment during his ten terms in office," said Brinkley spokesman Don Murphy.

Bartlett's campaign did not respond when asked in an e-mail whether it was behind the move.

The 6th District has captured national attention after its boundaries were redrawn by Annapolis lawmakers last year as part of the once-in-a-decade redistricting process. Democrats in Washington are following the outcome of the primary closely because they hope they have a chance to unseat Bartlett in November.

Candidates in several races, including for the Democratic nomination for Senate, spoke to the Montgomery County Muslim Council in Potomac on Saturday. The forum drew the two leading candidates, incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin and state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, as well about 150 voters from across the state.

In a short address, Cardin managed to repeatedly mention his endorsements from Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett and President Barack Obama while also delving into the economy, legislation he recently introduced to ban racial profiling and his thoughts on the Trayvon Martin shooting case.

"What happened with Trayvon Martin demonstrated to this country that something is desperately wrong," Cardin told the crowded community center. "We ... want an end to a practice of law enforcement on picking on people because of their ethnic background, their race or their religion."

Muse, who represents Prince George's County in the General Assembly, noted the uphill fight he has faced taking on Cardin, a largely popular incumbent who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash and is running statewide television advertisements touting his record in Congress.

"I believe that in many ways we're heading in the wrong direction," said Muse, focusing on a loss of manufacturing jobs and education. "We need change and we need it now."