Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney will not be running for Congress this year in the 6th district. The decision is a strong indicator that Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) is serious that he is not retiring.
Mooney is a former Bartlett staffer and personally close to the 10-term incumbent. He had formed an exploratory committee in early December to prepare for a run if Bartlett retired.
“I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination in the 6th Congressional District and instead support Congressman Bartlett,” Mooney said in a campaign email. “However, I am keeping my options open for a future run for office.“
As recently as last week, Mooney was on the fence about running in the event Bartlett did not retire. Mooney had raised about $100,000 in the one month his exploratory committee has been operational.
“I want to sit down with Congressman Bartlett and see what his exact plans are, what kind of campaign he’s going to run and make sure he’s 100 percent committed to do what it takes to win,” Mooney told Roll Call last week.
Bartlett, 85, has repeatedly told the press that he is running for an 11th term. Those statements have been chronically undermined by a litany of factors.
In October, redistricting imperiled his formerly safe Republican district, and then a Federal Election Commission fundraising report showed he had raised $1,000 in the third quarter. Retirement speculation began to swirl.
Weeks later, his now-former chief of staff solicited the support of Maryland Republicans and donors in the event his boss retired.
Bartlett spoke in a warm tone about Mooney in a November interview with Roll Call and said, “Alex has my back.”
The filing deadline in Maryland is Wednesday. The primary will be April 3.
Mooney was perceived among many Maryland political watchers as a formidable candidate in both the primary and the general election. Bartlett is not out of the woods yet, though. He must first take on state Sen. David Brinkley, businessman Brandon Rippeon and others to win the Republican nod.
Should he win the nomination, Bartlett will then face a difficult race in a Democratic-leaning district that was drawn by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature to pick up a seat in Congress.
State Sen. Robert Garagiola is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination but he faces businessman John Delaney in the primary.
Mooney will continue to work as the party’s state chairman. He had previously stated that if he were to run for Congress he would step down.