Bartlett still seems vulnerable

THE POLITICAL GAME

March 23, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Lawrence J. Hogan's decision not to run against Western Maryland Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the September Republican primary virtually clears the way for the freshman legislator's renomination, although he is still considered the most vulnerable Maryland incumbent in the November election.

Thus far, only one other Republican has filed. He is David R. Yurus, 29, of Columbia, who calls himself "a pro-choice conservative" and says his major difference with Mr. Bartlett is over abortion. "He is a good guy -- a great guy -- who has done a lot for the state of Maryland," says the Baltimore investment banker, whose main campaign theme is advocating legalization of RU-486, the French abortion pill.

A crowded Democratic field is fighting for the right to take on Mr. Bartlett in November. It includes Galen R. Clagett, 51, a former Frederick County commissioner who is in the commercial real estate business; Stephen Crawford, 51, of Frederick, a professor at the University of Maryland school of public affairs and the most recent entrant; Donald M. DeArmon, 38, of Frederick, an aide to a North Carolina congressman; Neil S. Dhillon, 31, of Cumberland, a former Clinton administration transportation official and former congressional aide; and Paul D. Muldowney, 58, a former state delegate who is part-owner of a Hagerstown masonry block firm.

So far, Mr. Dhillon, who grew up in Cumberland, has made the biggest splash by raising an eye-popping $242,000 in the last half of 1993, most of it out-of-state money. The prodigious fund raising transformed an unknown candidate -- who until last summer had lived in the Washington area all of his adult life -- into a "player." Mr. Dhillon, whose parents were born in India, received most of his donations from the Indian community in the United States.

He has continued his aggressive fund raising in 1994, calling on Washington connections for help. Last month, in a move considered unusual for a nonincumbent, he managed to get two powerful House Democrats to sponsor a Capitol Hill fund raiser. Rep. Bob Carr of Michigan, chairman of the transportation appropriations subcommittee, and Rep. Norman Mineta of California, chairman of the Public Works Committee, together hold considerable sway over the transportation industry and an invitation from them was a powerful inducement for a transportation lobbyist to buy a ticket. (Tickets were priced at $500 for political action committees and $250 for individuals.)

Meantime, Mr. Bartlett is working with some success to strengthen his position after a rough start last year. But, he is still fighting signs of weakness, including meager fund-raising in 1993.

Aggressively conservative, Mr. Bartlett knows when to trim his sails.

Last year, he refused to sign a letter asking for federal aid to help Maryland pay snow-removal costs, saying "I just couldn't see asking a federal government that has no money at all to fund something the state should be expected to pay for."

He was sharply criticized but now says the letter was sent before he got answers to some questions about it.

Earlier this month, when a similar plea went from the Maryland congressional delegation to President Clinton, Mr. Bartlett's signature was on the letter.

Rep. Helen Delich Bentley's campaign for governor leaves an open 2nd District seat and an interesting campaign is shaping up.

In the 5th, Republicans had hoped to give Rep. Steny H. Hoyer another tough fight. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., whose father dropped out of the 6th District race, pressed Mr. Hoyer hard in 1992 despite being outspent 6-to-1.

But the younger Hogan decided against another bid in 1994, leaving the GOP looking for a strong candidate.

Running so far are John E. Smathers, 35, a former Prince George's County assistant prosecutor, and Hal R. Moroz, 35, a Christian fundamentalist and former Army captain. Considering a run is Chriss Winston, 45, a Charles County commissioner and veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Ruthann Aron of Montgomery County, a Republican Senate candidate, plans to officially announce her entry into the race with a two-day swing around Maryland April 5-6. Some Republicans believe the 51-year-old Potomac millionaire could give former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock a stiff challenge for the nomination if she raises sufficient funds.

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