04/03/2012 12:34 pm ET

Maryland 6th Congressional District Candidates Battle For Redrawn Seat

WASHINGTON -- Of all the races in Maryland to watch, the contentious primary battle in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District is the one to watch carefully with tough battles underway for Republicans and Democrats to secure nominations the reshaped seat that's been held by 10-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R).

Back in October, the Maryland legislature approved a redistricting plan that reshaped the conservative 6th Congressional District to include parts of liberal Montgomery County, making it easier for a Democrat to win the seat in the general election.

On the Republican side, Bartlett, fighting to keep his seat in Congress, is facing seven challengers. Among them is Maryland state Sen. David Brinkley, considered to be Bartlett's most serious opponent.

Bartlett, the second-oldest member of the House, has a peculiar biography, according to NBC's Doug Adams:

Often described in profiles as "quirky", Bartlett is without a doubt one of the most idiosyncratic (and interesting) members of Congress. A 10-term congressman, Bartlett is a goat farmer, an inventor, and a former college professor who holds a Ph.D. in physiology. He's a member of the Tea Party caucus, opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iran, and was the first member of the GOP caucus to buy a Toyota Prius.

The Washington Examiner describes just how close this race is looking:

The favorite is state Sen. David R. Brinkley, of New Market. In an internal poll Brinkley's campaign released Saturday, he attracted 31 percent of the 701 Republican voters polled by EPolitical, marginally less than Bartlett's 34 percent. The remaining six candidates split 15 percent of the vote, while 19 percent were undecided.

"The congressman's in trouble," said state Del. Kathy Afzali, a Frederick County resident competing for the Republican nomination. "People are saying he's been there too long -- he's been there 20 years."

The Washington Post reports that the race may not be as close as Brinkley's camp would suggest:

Though Brinkley’s campaign contends the race is neck-and-neck, most outside observers believe Bartlett is the clear favorite to prevail Tuesday, since the other candidates are likely to split up the anti-incumbent vote.

The Maryland Juice politics blog posted audio of two 911 calls, one made by Brinkley and one by Brinkley's wife. Both calls were made in the course of domestic disturbances; Brinkley's wife references an affair she'd discovered Brinkley was having, as well.

Who leaked the calls to the blog? Bartlett’s campaign denies involvement -- the blog posting the calls reports that the calls were leaked by "Bartlett supporters."

The Democratic races are heated as well, with Maryland state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, who represents parts of Montgomery County, and businessman John Delaney, who's said to be worth as much as $50 million, appearing neck-to-neck going into what is expected to be a low-turnout primary.

Garagiola has been backed by Maryland's Democratic establishment, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, and was the presumptive winner of the race. It's been said that the 6th congressional district was redrawn with Garagiola to take Bartlett's seat.

Politico explains how the race got away from him:

It’s all thanks to John Delaney, a wealthy financier who has dumped more than $1 million of his own money into the contest and who has drawn financial support from many of his deep-pocketed friends. Much of his cash has been spent on mailers and TV ads hammering his opponent, while Garagiola’s frugal campaign — outspent 4 to 1 — hasn’t aired radio or TV ads.

In a district that now includes outside-the-Beltway suburbs and western Maryland, Garagiola acknowledged that Delaney’s spending avalanche caught him off guard. When Garagiola began mapping out his congressional bid about a year ago, he never counted on a self-funder jumping into the contest.

“He really came out of nowhere,” Garagiola said last week as he knocked on doors here in a last-ditch bid to win support. “Nobody knew who he was a few months ago.”

“It changes the dynamic when you have someone who can pour in a million bucks and not break a sweat off it,” he added.

Read Potomac Patch's primer for the 2012 primary in Maryland's 6th Congressional District.