Impatient Haines eyes bid to unseat Bartlett

The Political Game

GOP: Western Maryland Republicans brace for a rarity: an intraparty challenge to a sitting congressman.

June 08, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE Republican Party is getting too strong for its own good in Western Maryland?

Republicans are solidly entrenched in most elective offices in the state's western end -- so entrenched that some officeholders are getting a bit restless.

The prime example is state Sen. Larry E. Haines, a third-term Republican from Carroll County, who is shaking up the party by threatening to take on incumbent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in next year's congressional primary.

Such intraparty challenges of sitting members of Congress are fairly rare, but Haines says he's waited long enough for Bartlett to step aside.

Haines' rationale for running?

Bartlett, first elected in 1992, has been a consistent supporter of term limits for members of Congress.

Plus, says Haines, Bartlett said during his first run for office that he would be content with two terms in Washington.

Haines points out that Bartlett, 73, is planning to run for a fifth term.

"Roscoe now wants to be Strom Thurmond," Haines says, referring to the dean of the U.S. Senate, who is approaching age 100.

Haines, with a strong base in Carroll County and a solidly conservative record in the State House, could launch an effective campaign in the primary in March, say other area Republicans.

He could also take on Bartlett next year without having to give up his safe seat in the General Assembly -- giving him what the pols like to call a "free shot."

Haines, 61, has hired a GOP consultant to look at the race and is planning a poll to gauge Bartlett's vulnerability.

A contest would have few issues because Bartlett and Haines share conservative views on major questions.

"I think I can do a little better job and be more effective at constituent service," says Haines. "If I didn't think I could do that, I wouldn't consider running."

Lisa Lyons Wright, Bartlett's spokeswoman, readily concedes that the congressman has consistently voted for term-limit legislation and signed the GOP's 1994 "Contract with America," which called for congressional term limits.

But he never signed a pledge to leave Congress after a set time, Wright says.

She says Bartlett is serving his constituents more effectively by climbing the seniority ladder in Congress.

(In other words, experience does count for something in Congress, despite Republicans' strong rhetoric to the contrary during debate over term limits.)

Is Bartlett concerned about a challenge from Haines?

"Our office and Congressman Bartlett will have no comment about that," Wright says.

Even if Haines waits two more years and runs for Congress in 2002, he might still face a Bartlett -- Roscoe's son Joe, a first-term state delegate widely assumed to be his father's first choice as a successor.

Townsend's campaign takes wing at the zoo

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is off and running for governor, will hold her first fund-raiser next month, and it's a novel one.

For $10, supporters can hang out with Townsend at the Baltimore Zoo's waterfowl pavilion July 11 and eat ice cream and cake. (The price includes zoo admission.)

The zoo event is mostly about developing grass-roots interest in her campaign. The real money will be raised later at three events in the planning stages -- an August fund-raiser at the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod and major parties in Baltimore and the Washington area in the fall.

Vice President Al Gore is expected to raise some big bucks in Baltimore at a $1,000-a-head event this summer. No date is set, but Townsend will attend a breakfast next week to try to entice some of the state's heavy hitters to peddle tickets to the Gore party.

Pub Date: 6/08/99

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