Near the end of a contentious, expensive campaign, three contenders for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District took time to pose for a photo.
At the request of a campaign volunteer, John Delaney, Robert J. Garagiola and Milad Pooran took a break from greeting a steady flow of voters at in Rockville early Tuesday evening and stood shoulder to shoulder.
The three men said they heard similar concerns from voters on the campaign trail, especially about the need for jobs. But each also discussed how the campaign played out in terms of the criticism that two of the candidates lobbed at each other.
“Unfortunately the media has focused on the mudslinging more than on the issues and candidates,” said Pooran, a critical care physician and Iraq War veteran from Jefferson.
But that focus also framed Pooran as an alternative, he said.
“People are very frustrated with the negative campaigning,” he said. “They are happy that they had different choices.”
The question of negative campaigning became one of “who fired the first shot?” said Garagiola, of Germantown. “I’m not—and shouldn’t be with Republican [opponents] either—one to allow someone to attack me and not attack back.”
The back-and-forth between the campaigns came in mailers, news releases and, in the case of Delaney, on television.
Delaney, who lives in Potomac, doesn’t live in the district, Garagiola said.
Garagiola, now in his third term in the state Senate, didn’t disclose lobbying fees while serving in the General Assembly, a Delaney TV ad said, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Chevy Chase-based commercial lender CapitalSource Inc., which Delaney founded, foreclosed on homeowners, Garagiola charged.
Garagiola is “an Annapolis insider,” Delaney said.
On Tuesday, Delaney played down the negative campaigning.
“We were the only campaign to come up with a comprehensive issue platform,” said Delaney. “We’ve been focusing on our message and I think that’s resonated well with voters.”
Both Delaney and Garagiola garnered high-profile endorsements. President Bill Clinton backed Delaney. Last week, Gov. Martin O’Malley threw his support behind Garagiola.
Campaign spending also has been a focus.
From Jan. 1 through March 14, Delaney reported more than $700,000 in contributions, more than $1.5 million in expenditures and nearly $411,000 in cash on hand, according to The Frederick News-Post. Delaney said he makes $14.5 million a year and pledged to contribute more than $1 million of his own money to his campaign, The Washington Post reported.
The eventual Democratic nominee could spend $15 million through the general election, Garagiola predicted Tuesday.
Garagiola said he would be the nominee, because of his work in the field. “The grassroots. The people,” he said. “The person-to-person contact. And I’ve got a good record.”
Candidates stressed their time canvassing across the district, particularly outside of their home base. They each described the subtle differences in a district that has been held for the past 10 terms by Republican Roscoe G. Bartlett. Formerly a district comprising a small part of upper Montgomery County, now, , it stretches from Rockville west to the tip of the Maryland panhandle.
While Western Maryland voters are concerned about “more traditional economic suffering,” as experienced by voters in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, voters in Montgomery County “are worried the federal government is going to spend less,” leading to fewer jobs, Delaney said.
Concerns about traffic congestion and schools are on the minds of voters closer to Washington, D.C., with concerns about jobs “more pronounced as you get further west, Garagiola said.
Jobs, Social Security, Medicare, the environment and health care are big issues across the district, Pooran said.
In Western Maryland, jobs and the environment—particularly the debate over drilling for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking,” are at the top of voters’ agendas, he said. In Montgomery County, it’s health care and women’s rights, said Pooran, who planned to close out his day of campaigning on his home turf in Frederick County “and hopefully have our victory party.”