Bartlett keeps a low profile

7-term congressman faces 2 challengers in state's 6th District

Maryland Votes 2006

October 21, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Democrat Andrew Duck stumps at union halls across Western Maryland. He went to the NAACP banquet in Carroll County. Supporters across the region have opened up their homes to hold parties for him. On any given week, the calendar on Duck's Web site is crammed with campaign events.

That's not the case with Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett. His campaign site lists two events held in July. The seven-term incumbent has failed to join Duck, his Democratic challenger, and Robert Kozak, his Green Party opponent, at several campaign forums, and most recently skipped one at a retirement community in Westminster.

What Duck lacks in campaign cash he's trying to make up with a grassroots blitz across Maryland's sprawling 6th Congressional District - which stretches from Carroll County to Maryland's western border and also includes parts of Harford, Montgomery and Baltimore counties.

"Duck is certainly waging a vigorous campaign," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College. "Bartlett is trying to minimize exposure with the opposition, to kind of starve them of publicity and accentuate the positives that he has as an incumbent in a secure district. This one is virtually cruise control for him."

As the election debate nationally increasingly centers on the war in Iraq, Duck is running as someone who has actually been there. With other Iraq war veterans who are Democratic candidates for Congress, Duck has garnered national, even international, media attention.

"When I left Bosnia in 2000, it was clear that America was the real moral leader in the world," Duck told a small group of seniors at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster this week. "We have lost that, and it is important that we regain it. There is a greater threat from the politicians in Washington than from any terrorists overseas."

The bill President Bush signed into law this week to allow the prosecution of suspected terrorists before military tribunals is "unconstitutional and morally repugnant," Duck added.

Bartlett voted against the bill and differs with Bush on education and energy policy, according to Bartlett's spokeswoman, Lisa L. Wright. Bartlett aligns himself more closely with Bush with his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. Duck describes himself as pro-life but says that banning abortion would have ill effects.

Ending the country's dependence on foreign oil has been an issue in the race. Kozak, the founder of a Frederick bio-fuels research firm, has called for a "Manhattan Project" to invest $100 billion a year for five years in home-grown energy. All three candidates call for centering an emerging bio-fuels industry in Western Maryland.

At the Westminster forum, residents asked Duck and Kozak for their views on the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which Bartlett opposed. Duck said the mission of the act has failed. "It was wrong to begin with, and it should be repealed," he said. "The one-size-fits-all concept of a standardized test is not the best way to teach children."

Kozak, an environmental scientist, stressed the need for more qualified science teachers, who he said could thoroughly teach neglected topics such as evolution.

Both Duck and Kozak say they support universal health care, but disagree on the route to get there. Bartlett has said he prefers a completely privatized system and says he voted for the Medicare Part D drug plan because it included health savings accounts.

In a rural district with a growing Hispanic population, Bartlett takes a hard line on illegal immigration. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and favors establishing English as the country's official language. His campaign brochure reads: "8 to 12 million illegal aliens have crossed our borders! ... Illegal means illegal!"

Duck opposes both of the two conflicting immigration bills held up in Congress and said he would instead enforce existing laws that fine employers for hiring undocumented immigrants.

Kozak, who worked on air pollution control projects in Mexico City, suggests that the U.S. help create more agriculture and manufacturing jobs in Mexico to lessen the need to build a wall along the border.

Wright said Bartlett had to miss the Westminster forum because of a groundbreaking scheduled for a new commissary at Fort Detrick. She said Bartlett busies himself with congressional appearances and duties in Washington.

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