FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Rob Garagiola in launching his congressional campaign Tuesday appealed to rural and independent voters in his mostly western Maryland district that’s been redrawn to improve his party’s chances of unseating 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.
The Montgomery County resident portrayed himself at campaign appearances as an independent-minded candidate dedicated to middle-class job creation and ending partisan deadlock in Congress.
At the day’s first stop in Frederick, Garagiola pointed to his record of supporting education and health care and played down his leadership on same-sex marriage and higher fuel taxes — divisive measures that failed in this year’s legislative session.
He also sought to erase perception among 6th District voters that he walks in lockstep with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is sparring with rural conservatives over his administration’s plans for curbing residential sprawl.
“I’m an independent agent,” Garagiola told reporters after his speech to Frederick County Democrats at a downtown bakery. “I’m a Democrat but I’ve also been with the governor on certain issues and not with him on others — and I plan to be that way as a U.S. representative at the federal level.”
Garagiola, 39, is viewed as a rising young Democratic lawmaker in Annapolis. He is the state Senate’s majority leader, a position he was appointed to by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.
He faces competition in the April 3 primary from former Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg.
The conservative Bartlett, 85, says he’s committed to running for another term despite last month’s redistricting, designed to bring more Democrats into what had been a majority-Republican district. Four other Republicans are challenging him for the nomination.
A Democratic victory in 6th District would likely leave Maryland with just one Republican, 1st District Rep. Andy Harris, among the state’s eight House members.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)