Eric Wargotz, a Republican commissioner from one of Maryland's least populated counties, has earned the unenviable task of challenging Democratic incumbent Barbara A. Mikulski in the U.S. Senate election this fall.
Wargotz, a genial physician from Queen Anne's County, spent hundreds of thousands of his own dollars in outpacing tea-party favorite Jim Rutledge in the 11-way contest for the Republican nomination.
According to unofficial results early Wednesday from the Maryland Board of Elections, Wargotz received 38.7 percent of the statewide primary vote to 31.4 percent for Rutledge, a lawyer from Harford County. The other candidates were in the low- to mid-single digits.
Some Republican Party officials had expected outsider Rutledge to prevail. They said he clearly had the most enthusiastic and energetic cadre of supporters, drawing on some of the same tea-party energy that carried Republican longshot Christine O'Donnell to a surprise victory in neighboring Delaware's U.S. Senate primary.
But Wargotz, a more established figure with a bigger wallet, was the winner.
The general election will test his willingness to continue tapping his personal wealth. Mikulski, the state's senior senator and, according to polls over the years, the most popular politician in Maryland, has roughly $4 million in her campaign account and the ability to collect more, if she needs it.
According to the latest Federal Election Commission report, Wargotz's campaign would have been in the red earlier this month, had he not kept it afloat with his own money. The Queenstown candidate had loaned his campaign $575,000 as of Aug. 25.