Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who has represented Maryland's 6th District for nearly two decades, lost his bid for an 11th term Tuesday to a Democratic businessman who cast the closely watched race as a battle of different economic visions for the country.
John Delaney, a Potomac financier, will become the seventh Democrat to represent the state in the House of Representatives in January after accomplishing the rare political feat of knocking off an incumbent member of Congress. The rest of Maryland's delegation to Washington won re-election.
Baltimore-area Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, John Sarbanes and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger — all Democrats — won re-election, as did Republican Rep. Andy Harris. No challenger managed to raise the kind of money needed to mount a serious campaign. That left many of the state's House members free to stump for Bartlett or Delaney. Some skipped full-scale campaigning on their own behalf.
Bartlett, who is 86, became a top target for Democrats after Gov. Martin O'Malley and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly redrew the state's congressional map last year. With a stroke of a pen on a map, lawmakers added roughly 300,000 voters from Democrat-rich Montgomery County into a district that had been a conservative stronghold for decades.
Delaney will confront difficult choices immediately. Congress must decide early next year whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling again. And while lawmakers will return to Washington to try to steer the country away from the "fiscal cliff" in a lame-duck session this month, at least some of that work will be put off until the new Congress is sworn in.
Both candidates crisscrossed the district one last time Tuesday, hoping to influence voters who had not made up their minds in what was Maryland's only battleground congressional race.
Voters said Tuesday they were passionate about the race, if not the candidates themselves.
Jessie Lewis, a 27-year-old student and restaurant worker from Gaithersburg, said she voted for Bartlett as a protest against the new maps. Lewis said she also opposed the statewide ballot question on redistricting.
"It's a sneaky way of trying to get him out of office," Lewis said of Bartlett.
Tom Bythewood, said he, too, was influenced by party politics when he voted for Delaney. The longtime Democrat feels that GOP leaders in Washington have gone way too far out of their way to be obstructionists.
"From Day One, when Obama became president, the agenda for Republicans was to make sure he did not get re-elected," said Bythewood, who is 71.
Initially, political pundits said the race could help decide control of the House of Representatives. But Democrats now appear to be short of the 25 seats needed to take control of the chamber. Instead, the race will help to decide just how wide the Republican majority will be next year.
Because the 6th District has the potential to be competitive again in 2014, it is likely to produce a congressman who takes more moderate stances rather than standing rigidly with his party. In an early indication of that dynamic, both Bartlett and Delaney have espoused positions that break with party orthodoxy.
Delaney comes from the business world and was the youngest CEO in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. He founded a Chevy Chase-based bank called CapitalSource in 2000 and led it for nearly a decade. Like President Barack Obama, he favors a mix of taxes and spending cuts to address the nation's looming fiscal woes. He supports a woman's right to have an abortion and believes lawmakers should pass a law allowing illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens.
The district includes Western Maryland, which remains a Republican stronghold. But it also dips south, scooping up the city of Frederick and a large chunk of Montgomery County.
Redistricting made the race competitive, but it wasn't the only factor to influence the outcome. Despite a series of early missteps, Delaney ran a well-funded and disciplined campaign. The first-time candidate trounced state Sen. Rob Garagiola in the April primary. Garagiola endorsed Delaney on Tuesday.
For Bartlett, the situation was more dicey. He spent night after night making fundraising calls but was never able to match Delaney's resources. There also were internal disagreements that led to lackluster campaigning in the final weeks. Days at a time would go by with no sign of Bartlett.
When he did show up, his quirky, off-the-script style — the characteristic that has endeared him to many voters — sometimes got him in trouble. He told a college audience that student loans are unconstitutional and that governments that don't follow the Constitution could perpetrate another Holocaust. The Delaney campaign aired a radio ad noting Bartlett had associated the popular federal program with Nazi Germany. Bartlett was forced to apologize.
Despite that, Republicans were buoyed by a poll for The Baltimore Sun in October that showed the candidates running neck and neck. The poll — the only one released to the public, as campaigns didn't disclose their own polling — showed Delaney winning Montgomery County and Bartlett carrying the rest of the district. GOP leaders regularly pointed to that poll at rallies in the final days of the campaign.
Delaney's personal wealth also played a role in the race. The 49-year-old banker made contributions and loans to his campaign worth $2.2 million, campaign finance reports show. While much of that money was spent during the primary, Delaney donated at least $387,000 to his campaign in late October and early November.
He would have outraised Bartlett without the personal donations, but by a slimmer margin.
The money discouraged donations from outside groups, such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, which ultimately did little to support their candidate.
Bartlett, a former scientist, is something of an oddity in today's Washington. Devoutly conservative on some issues — he opposes abortion, government regulations and any new tax — he also touts his independence on energy policy, was the first member of Congress to drive a hybrid vehicle and has cozied up to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a liberal icon.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeremy Bauer-Wolf and Lauren Loricchio contributed to this article.
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- C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger
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