Democrats clash over Iraq in 6th District race

September 08, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,sun reporter

Seven-term Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who at 80 eschews the term limits he once endorsed, is such an entrenched presence in Western Maryland that a top GOP colleague didn't realize Bartlett faces a contested primary Tuesday.

"If he has a primary, I don't even know who his opponent is," said Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, the Republican candidate for Maryland attorney general. "I know who's running on the Democratic side."

A fiercer Democratic primary is shaping up in Maryland's 6th Congressional District - a sprawling region stretching from the state's western border through Frederick and Carroll and parts of Harford, Montgomery and Baltimore counties. Facing off are Democrats Andrew Duck, an Iraq war veteran from Brunswick, and Barry J.C. Kissin, a Frederick attorney and longtime peace and environmental activist.

Duck, 43, is a 20-year Army veteran who retired after his stint in Iraq and now works for Northrup Grumman. He was endorsed by the VoteVets PAC , which supports military-veteran candidates. Duck also won endorsements from the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO and the Maryland State Teachers Association.

But those endorsements are not likely to affect most 6th District voters, said John N. Bambacus, a former GOP state senator from Western Maryland.

"Bartlett's opponents have always had the support of the labor unions and teachers, but it doesn't make any difference," said Bambacus, a political science professor at Frostburg State University. "Bartlett has not had their support and won all the time."

Still, Duck believes his platform on Iraq - pushing to bring in European allies and close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay - appeals to voters who are hardly anti-war, yet weary of the Bush administration's "stay the course" rhetoric.

"I view my military record as being more effective at bringing world peace than the `60s-mode activists have ever been," Duck said, referring to Kissin, his primary opponent. "In Bosnia, where 100,000 innocent civilians died, we went over there and made it stop. It all depends on how you define activism."

Bartlett voted for the use of military force in Iraq, but has said he wished the U.S. had entered with a United Nations resolution. This summer, he voted against creating a troop withdrawal date, but says he wants the soldiers home "as soon as possible."

"I do not want a timetable for pulling out. I want an event-table for pulling out," Bartlett, of Frederick, said in an interview this week. "The American people would like to have on their refrigerators a little check list: `How many police. Are the courts working. ...' The administration needs to tell us at least on a monthly basis how we are making progress, so when we have enough police, enough security forces, and the courts are working, then we're gone."

Kissin, 55, a registered Green Party voter from 2001-05 now running as a Democrat, casts himself as the unwavering anti-war candidate "reaching for the soul of the Democratic Party."

Kissin has accused Duck of removing from his Web site a plan that said the Iraq war lacked sufficient U.S. troops, that "we cannot `cut and run.' "

"He's still talking about accomplishing the mission, bringing in European allies," said Kissin, who also opposes the expansion of bio-weapons research at Fort Detrick in Frederick County. "What makes you think the Spanish, French, Italians and Germans are about to commit thousands of troops to help us? I call for swift withdrawal from Iraq, to do it in an orderly and safe fashion."

Duck and Kissin also clash on health care. Kissin calls for single-payer, nationalized health insurance by expanding Medicare. Duck says negotiation with insurance companies and doctors to reduce costs is a more realistic path toward universal health coverage.

Bartlett's conservative positions - staunch opposition to gay marriage and abortion, support for gun rights and tax cuts - have appealed to district voters since 1992. He consistently receives 65 percent to 70 percent of the vote.

In the Republican primary, Bartlett's challenger is Joseph T. Krysztoforski, a health care consultant from Phoenix. Krysztoforski, 52, says Bartlett has come to take his constituents' votes for granted. "People in all eight counties have said they've just about had it with Roscoe, that's he's out of touch with the issues that affect them," he said.

Krysztoforski says he is "very conservative on family issues" but disagrees with the GOP position on Iraq. He supports a timetable for troop withdrawal.

Robert E. Kozak, a Green Party candidate from Frederick, will take on the winning Republican and Democrat in November.

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