WASHINGTON - Maryland Democrats used to campaigns where one frontrunner coasts to victory are experiencing a very different campaign season. They are being flooded with mailings and ads from candidates determined to batter each other.
State Sen. Rob Garagiola was initially seen as the likely primary victory winner, but businessman John Delaney jumped into the race and quickly heated it up.
Delaney charged that Garagiola had a gap on his campaign resume: Failing to mention his work as a lobbyist and leaving it off financial disclosure forms. Garagiola shot back that Delaney had some paperwork issues of his own: The IRS is auditing CapitalSource, which Delaney helped found, over possible violations including under reporting tax liabilities.
Myrna Whitworth, chair of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee, says this is all very unusual.
"This is the first time in many years that we've had a situation where you have had a competitive primary race," she says.
A number of Democratic activists and politicians who asked to speak on background said it's not just competitive, it's also ugly because all parties want to win that seat.
"Keep watching this race. I think it's going to be a very interesting one," Whitworth says.
The battleground is in Maryland's newly drawn 6th District. For years it was solidly Republican, with the seat held by 85-year-old Roscoe Bartlett. But the new boundaries, which sprawl from Garrett County into Upper Montgomery County, give Democrats an advantage.
The Democrat who benefits most from the new boundary is Garagiola, whose voter base falls into the new district. In the past, he has benefited from name recognition and the support of influential unions. But his opponent was endorsed by the Washington Post and by former President Bill Clinton.
The seat is also in play on the GOP side. Bartlett, who has held the seat for two decades, is facing a challenge from state Sen. David Brinkley and GOP activist Robin Ficker, among others.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)