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Jim Lee: Major change will greet Primary voters

Voters may well return U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett to Washington for an 11th term this election, but for the first time in 20 years he won't be getting a single vote from anyone living in Carroll.

The Republican incumbent saw his 6th Congressional District severely changed as a result of the 2010 census. Democrats said they wanted to target his seat to make it harder for a Republican to win, but Carroll voters are the ones who lost out the most in the shakeup.

Carroll voters who haven't been paying close attention may be in for a surprise when they go to the polls next month. Many others who skip the primary will likely be surprised in November. In each case the name that has been synonymous with Carroll's congressional representation for two decades will be missing.

In its place, voters in the northern part of the county are now part of a heavily Republican district that goes all the way to the Eastern Shore. The incumbent, Andy Harris, is coming to the end of his first term as 1st district representative and is unopposed in the Republican Primary. Three Democrats, John LeFeria, Wendy Rosen and Kim Letke will face each other in the Democratic Primary for the right to compete against Harris this November.

Voters in Westminster and most of the southern part of the county have been moved into the 8th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Democrat Chris Van Hollen. Van Hollen was first elected in 2002. He will face democratic challenger George English in the primary.

Four Republicans, Gus Alzona, Shelly Skolnick, Dave Wallace and Ken Timmerman, will fight it out to see who will win the right to move on to the November election. The winner, however, faces an uphill battle as the district is heavily Democratic.

Bartlett was first elected to represent the Sixth District when he beat out Democrat Thomas Hattery for what had previously been a solidly Democratic congressional seat. Democrats took control of the seat in 1970, when Goodloe Byron beat Republican John Beall Jr., who was just completing his first term.

Byron died in 1978, but his wife, Beverly Byron continued as the district's representative from 1979 until 1992, when she lost her primary battle to Hattery.

Throughout his 10 terms in office, Bartlett has never failed to get at least 50 percent of the vote, even when there were several third or fourth party candidates also on the general election ticket. In fact, his first term saw his lowest vote percentage, when he beat Hattery 54 percent to 46 percent.

Typically, Bartlett's support has averaged closer to 60 percent, with several elections seeing him get much higher percentages.

Carroll, as would be expected, always provided Bartlett with solid Republican votes. In 2010 he received just short of 70 percent of the votes cast here. Across the district, Bartlett received 61 percent of the votes to Democrat Andrew Duck's 33 percent in his last election.

Bartlett will face tougher challenges this election, as seven other Republicans are attempting to unseat him. Should he win, he will face one of five Democrats who are competing in that party's primary.

Regardless of the outcome, Carroll voters won't have a say in who wins the 6th Congressional District race. Our focus needs to be on finding out as much as we can about the candidates in our new districts, and doing everything in our power to elect our favorite among those groups.

The deadline for registering to vote or to change party affiliation is fast approaching. March 13 will be the last day prior to the primary to do either of those.

Our primary is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3, with early voting beginning on the second Saturday before the election and running through the Thursday before the election.

Time is growing short to find out about the candidates in your district so that you can make an informed choice when you go to the polls.

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