Maryland Sen. Robert J. Garagiola announced his jump into the U.S. congressional race, swinging through Germantown late Tuesday morning for a rally outside of BlackRock Center for the Arts.
“I'm running to break the petty partisan logjam in Washington and to stop the endless debates that have stymied our nation's progress, doing nothing to create the jobs we desperately need,” said Garagiola, flanked on the outdoor stage by his wife and kids, and nearly a dozen supporters and lawmakers who’ve endorsed him.
Garagiola, a resident of Germantown, spent the day touring parts of the expanded 6th congressional district, stopping at a bakery in Frederick before coming to BlackRock, then heading west to Cumberland and Hagerstown.
He hopes to drum up enough campaign support to unseat 10-term Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, whose redrawn congressional district boundaries now include a greater portion of Democrat-leaning Montgomery County. Some have criticized the new map as a political ploy to pick off a Republican, since the Western Maryland district hasn’t elected a democrat to the House of Representatives in 20 years.
State Sen. Nancy King (D, 39th district) said she thought voters in Western Maryland would be open to having a Montgomery County Democrat represent them in congress.
"I think once they meet Rob and they see what he's about and see that he's going to be out there working for them, I think he's got a great chance up there," King said. "They've just got to get to know him and they'll see what a great guy he is."
Peter Perini might be one of the Western Maryland supporters King was referencing. The Hagerstown Democrat came to Germantown to show his support for Garagiola.
"I believe Rob is the best candidate," Perini said. "I'm not into the partisan bickering. I'm interested in taking our district to the next level. I think Rob can get us to the next level."
Among supporters and lawmakers who offered endorsements, “partisan” seemed to be the buzzword.
"He's somebody who looks beyond the partisan issues, looks beyond the need to get by to get along and has really worked to make sure that the region itself prospers," said Sate Del. Kirill Reznik (D, 39th district).
But not everyone was a Garagiola fan. Republican opponent Robin Ficker and his supporters stood quietly as they held large apparatuses of red “No Gas Tax Hike” posters from the crowd of suits.
“I don't think passivity is the approach to take when someone is hurting the job situation in Western Maryland and hurting prosperity in Western Maryland by proposing a huge gas tax,” Ficker said.
Garagiola was part of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding, which recommended generating $870 million in revenue for transportation by increasing the state’s gas tax by 15-cents a gallon, in addition to increasing registration fees and raising MTA fares.
Sue Payne, a talk radio host from Damascus, said Garagiola wouldn’t be getting her vote, and cited his votes supporting in-state tuition for undocumented college students and tax increases as reasons why.
"I can't imagine anyone worse for congress,” Payne said. “I would vote for anybody but this guy. I would rather vote for my dog."
Others running for the 6th district seat include former Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, who is a Democrat, and Republicans Robert Coblentz, of Washington County; Joseph T. Krysztoforski, of Baltimore County; and Brandon Orman Rippeon, of Frederick County.