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Delaney May Have Beaten Bartlett Even Without Montgomery County

Bartlett said gerrymandering cost him the congressional election but the numbers tell a different story.

Capital News Service

Congressman-elect John Delaney won Maryland's 6th District race on Election Day with the support of heavily Democratic Montgomery County, as expected, but a surprising number of Western Maryland voters voted to oust long-time incumbent Roscoe Bartlett, an analysis of the numbers shows.

Now, those voters expect Delaney to champion their causes.

Delaney campaigned by saying he was determined not to "balkanize the district"—splitting it into subgroups that could be targeted with tailored messages. That strategy appears to have paid off. Though the scant polling of the matchup showed Bartlett and Delaney tied throughout the fall, Delaney's 20-point win revealed the Democrat had more bipartisan appeal than any of Bartlett's past challengers.

"I think having a candidate who offers a robust candidacy really resonated in the more rural portions of the district," said Cumberland Democratic Mayor Brian Grim, who campaigned with Delaney in Allegany County. "(Voters) were willing to opt out of a guy they had known for 20 years."

Pundits had expected Delaney's margin in Montgomery County to render the rest of the district superfluous. To make the 6th District competitive, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Democrats in Annapolis moved more Democratic areas of Montgomery County into the district, while subtracting Republican areas of Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and northern Frederick counties—places Bartlett had consistently won by wide margins. Only Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties remain untouched in the new district.

Bartlett has blamed his loss on that redistricting process, but the numbers say differently.

He lost Montgomery County 68 to 29 percent, but he also trailed in Frederick (58 to 38 percent) and Washington (48 to 47 percent) counties. Though he won 55 to 42 percent in Allegany County and 67 to 30 percent in Garrett County, the numbers represent a precipitous drop from his 2010 margins of 34 and 48 points, respectively.

Even if Montgomery County were subtracted from the district, Delaney still would narrowly win—though the race would have been much closer in Bartlett's old district.

A CNS analysis of Delaney's campaign showed the 49-year-old financier scheduled most of his appearances across the northern and western parts of the 6th District, while he specifically targeted Montgomery County with his grassroots and get-out-the-vote efforts.

"From the beginning, John made campaigning across the entire district a priority, that's why we made over 100 campaign stops in Western Maryland," campaign manager Justin Schall said.

As anticipated, Delaney's 56,000-vote margin in Montgomery padded his districtwide 58-to-38-percent win over Bartlett. With Republican voters in northern Frederick County excised from the district, Delaney won the remaining half by about 10,000 votes.

Delaney advanced farther into traditionally Republican territory than previous Democratic challengers; he eked out a 600-vote win in Washington County, aided by a 61 to 34 percent victory in Hagerstown. He received little help from President Barack Obama, who lost Washington County 40 to 58 percent—worse than his 2008 showing.

"John won the Western Maryland portion of the district for the same reason he won in Montgomery County, because his private sector background, real-world experience creating jobs, and commitment to working with both sides to get things done resonates everywhere," Schall said.

Throughout his 10 successful House races, Bartlett never lost Washington County. While he carried Allegany and Garrett counties, Delaney captured Cumberland by about 3 points.

But before Bartlett, the district was reliably Democratic. Bartlett in 1992 ended Democrats' 21-year control of the 6th District. Then-Rep. Beverly Byron, a conservative Democrat, lost a primary challenge to Delegate Thomas Hattery of Frederick County, who then went on to lose to Bartlett, 54 to 46 percent. Bartlett had unsuccessfully challenged Byron in 1982.

Tim Magrath, a Frostburg State University professor of political science, said Bartlett held his seat for 20 years because of a lack of credible Democratic opposition.

"There's a certain level of frustration here," Magrath said. "I think people in the business community ... frankly got tired of not having an effective representative. I think there was fatigue of the incumbent."

Both Grim and Magrath said the opportunity to elect a new congressman may have persuaded voters in rural Appalachia to support Delaney, and that his presence in Western Maryland legitimized his candidacy.

"The fact that he has spent time here and sat down with local leaders—that certainly gave us some reason to be excited," Grim said.

By rejecting Bartlett's bid for an 11th term, voters in the 6th District also severed their connection to the House Republican leadership.

Grim said Delaney's experience in commercial lending will make him more adept at bringing new investments to the region.

"I believe that his Rolodex will be advantageous to fulfilling promises and expectations set in Western Maryland."

francesca@allianceofsmallbusinesses.com November 26, 2012 at 12:25 PM
John Delaney visited our group of small businesses and we were all highly impressed with what he had to say. I believe that he will certainly tackle hard issues and try to work as quickly as he can to resolve them. He already told us that he was realistic in being able to only tackle a few things at a time. He believes that government should level the playing field, but let the free market work. It is refreshing to have someone who has fire in the belly and a successful track record. We needed change.
Brigitta Mullican November 26, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I am not proud of the gerrymandering that was done in District 6 and hope the Democrats with integrity correct this very unfair process. Those elected have a responsibility of govern with integrity representing all citizens. Is this possible in Maryland and Montgomery County? It is very evident that Republicans are treated differently and get a lot of unjustifiable attack. I hope to see more friendly cooperation from all the elected officials.
Jim Burnetti November 27, 2012 at 12:50 AM
That's not the point. Montgomery County's representation in Congress has been diluted by Governor Gerrymander. Residents of Montgomery County never should have been voting with residents of Allegany County. Our governor is geographically illiterate and does not care to honor community boundaries at all.
Jay Levy November 27, 2012 at 03:40 AM
The way the 6th Congressional District's boundaries were reconfigured makes as much sense as putting some South Carolina Congressman in charge of the subcommittee managing Washington DC's affairs.
Tony Puca November 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
In 1990 I ran in the Democratic Primary in sixth district that had all of Garrett, Alleghany, Washington, Carroll, Frderick, 30%Howard and 16 % of Montgomery that was the Western/rural part. My opponent Beverly Byron was not only an incumbent and one of the most important female members of Congress but the fourth member of her immediate family to hold that office. Unbeatable? I spent $30,000 to her $250,000 and wound up with 21,000 votes which was the 5th highest of any challenger running aginst any incumbent in the coutry in 1990. I would have beaten her in 1992 so the governor and party redistricted the 6th and I was now slightly out of distrist. I still could have run while out of district as John did but after meetings with Delegate Hattery I stepped aside so he could use my momentum and organization and beat Ms. Byron. He then lost in a surprise to Bartlett. 20 years pass and our Governor and party redistrict the 6th again and now 58% of the vote is in Montgomery County. John Delaney runs in a primary that had no incumbent and one strong challenger and spends $1.3 million in the primary and gets 21,000 votes as I did.The difference is he spent $57.00 per vote I spent $1.40 per vote. I just crunched the numbers and if the district was the same in 1990 with 58% of the vote in Montgomery instead of only 16% I would have won even with the $30,000 I spent.I am happy John won,but the truth is money still wins elections.If I spent a little more it would be my 12th term.

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