Friday, January 22, 2010

Eight for Eight: Casey Clark for Congress, Part Three

By Marc Korman.

In Part One, we took a look at Maryland’s 6th Congressional District and incumbent Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. In Part Two, we talked about one of his challengers, Casey Clark, and the issues he is highlighting. In Part Three, we will assess Clark’s chances of victory.

To take Bartlett on in November, Clark will need to win the primary in September. So far, his only opponent is Andrew Duck, an Army veteran who served in Bosnia and Iraq. Duck was the nominee in 2006 and lost the primary to Jennifer Dougherty in 2008. He is better known by the Democratic electorate than Casey and many probably feel indebted to Duck for his efforts, over many years, to take on Bartlett. Casey, by his own admission, did not do much to help the Democrats in 2006 or 2008 in the district. But Clark’s $150,000 haul so far dwarfs Duck’s, who at the last filing deadline had raised under $5,000.

Clark also has some baggage in a party primary: he was formerly a Republican. In 1988 he supported New York Congressman Jack Kemp for President. By 1992, with the Republican Party shifting rightward on social issues such as choice, Casey became a Democrat and has been there ever since. He still describes himself as a fiscal conservative.

If Clark makes it through the primary, he will be going up against a long term incumbent in a Republican leaning district. Even in two back to back wave years, hard running Democrats could not even keep Bartlett to the 55% largely viewed as a sign of incumbent vulnerability. Clark believes his energy and fundraising will help turn the tide against Bartlett, who does not want to put much effort into a campaign.

Clark has a few hurdles in executing his strategy. First, there are other fish to fry, so to speak, in Maryland. Frank Kratovil narrowly won in 2008 and is on track for an extremely hard race this year. What national resources are funneled to Maryland will likely go to the Maryland 1st.

Clark also takes an optimistic view of Bartlett’s vulnerabilities. It is true, as Clark says, that Bartlett has had declining vote totals. He received 67% in 2004 and saw a decline to 59% in 2006 and 57.8% in 2004. But those declines came in two wave years which are unlikely to be repeated. Bartlett’s fundraising may have also slowed down, but he has $313,917 cash on hand which is about his high for the last ten years despite two spirited challenges.

But Clark is doing everything he needs to do to position himself to be competitive. He is raising money, talking to voters, and learning the issues. He is not running as a national Democrat, but as a person who wants to work hard for his Congressional district. He is conversant on policy issues and has a pragmatic view of the politics involved in running and winning. If he keeps up his intensity, he could give the Democrats a fighting chance in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. With a little bit (okay, a lot) of luck, Democrats could even go 8 for 8 in Maryland and sweep the House seats.