Conservative Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett has for 12 years been the clear-cut choice of voters in the 6th Congressional District, where his popularity has remained steadfast in the GOP strongholds of Carroll and Frederick counties.
Even his two opponents for the congressional seat acknowledge he will be a tough candidate to beat.
"He's a well-entrenched incumbent who's done a lot of things by way of helping residents and businesses," said Yerby Holman, 89, a retired railroad administrator who moderated a Carroll County forum featuring Bartlett and his Democratic opponent, Baltimore County farmer Kenneth T. Bosley, at Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville.
Gregory J. Hemingway, 34, of Lutherville, a political newcomer representing the Green Party, also is challenging the incumbent.
Right before his appearance at Fairhaven, Bartlett, 78, a Frederick resident, successfully pushed for a $100,000 federal grant for the Copper Ridge Institute, a facility specializing in dementia patients adjacent to the retirement community.
"You make friends that way," Holman said.
Bartlett's base is in conservative bastions like Carroll County, where his campaign signs are as ubiquitous as those for President Bush. Bartlett's domination of the sprawling 6th - which includes Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties, and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Montgomery counties - goes back to 1992, when he defeated Del. Thomas H. Hattery by more than 25,000 votes. A decade later, he beat Democrat Donald M. DeArmon by more than 72,000 votes.
He favors less government, tax cuts and maintaining gun owners' rights. He staunchly opposes gay marriage and abortion. His votes on House bills score consistently high marks from conservative groups and zeros from liberal organizations.
The Democratic challenger comes from Sparks in northern Baltimore County. Bosley, 74, is a perennial candidate who lost in 2nd Congressional District races against then-Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the 1998 and 2000 general elections and against former Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2002 Democratic primary election.
Bosley, a former engineer and retired Air Force major, thinks he can give voters an alternative to what he considers Bartlett's predictability.
"He's following the Republican Party all the way down the line," Bosley said.
A champion of farmers, Bosley supports legislative changes to give them tax breaks and defenses against encroaching development. A believer in local community banks, he led a failed campaign in 1995 to keep the Sparks State Bank from being bought by Mercantile Bankshares Corp. of Baltimore.
He said he also would find ways to bring federal funds back to the district, especially for roads.
Bosley supports the right to own a gun and leaves the responsibility for controlling the weapons to the individual. He's an abortion-rights candidate, but said he opposes late-term abortions except to save the life of the mother.
Hemingway, a certified public accountant with Ernst & Young in Baltimore, acknowledged that defeating Bartlett is an uphill battle.
"Obviously Roscoe is very popular," Hemingway said. "But for those who don't share his convictions, I'd like to give them someone to vote for."
If nothing else, Hemingway hopes that his candidacy will raise the Green Party's profile and help voters understand that the party cares about more than just the environment, social justice and diversity.
Hemingway said that, on the surface, the economy seems to have prospered during Bartlett's tenure. But he said the perception is misleading.
"Unfortunately, jobs have been created in industries such as prison construction and defense. Neither of these industries should ever be considered to be a `growth' industry, in that they add nothing of real value to the economy," he said. "Instead of focusing on locking up our citizens or creating new weapons, we should be focusing on creating alternative fuel sources and renewable-energy technology."
He supports the right to own a gun but draws the line at automatic weapons.
Hemingway would like to see more dollars being put into drug-treatment programs rather than building more prisons. He supports bringing manufacturing jobs back to the district through renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade pacts that allow those jobs to flourish in countries with less-stringent regulations.
For more information on Maryland political races, go to baltimoresun.com/election 2004.
ON THE ISSUES
THE WAR IN IRAQ
How should the U.S. manage its ongoing occupation of and eventual exit from Iraq?
Bartlett: He voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. But he said he has problems with how the U.S. entered the war without a U.N. resolution. Bartlett said winning the war is a must and that the U.S. should make sure Iraq becomes a republic, not a democracy.