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In November, Democrats have an uphill battle if they want to try and take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But one bright spot for the party is the Sixth Congressional District in Maryland. State Democrats redrew the district's boundaries and now it favors their party. And that leaves 10-term Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett in trouble. NPR's Jeff Brady has our story from Hagerstown, Maryland.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: One indication that this reliably Republican congressional district is now Democratic are the lawn signs for Representative Roscoe Bartlett's challenger. Each proclaims in bold that John Delaney is a Democrat. At a recent debate in Hagerstown, Delaney ended with this...
JOHN DELANEY: My opponent is a member of the Tea Party, which is an organization that came to Washington to do nothing, to defeat everything that tries to get done. I want to go to Washington and get things done. Thank you.
BRADY: Bartlett says he joined the Tea Party caucus because of its focus on the Constitution. Despite his changing district, he remains the socially and fiscally conservative Republican he's always been. At 86 years old, Bartlett says he's fighting to win re-election.
REPRESENTATIVE ROSCOE BARTLETT: I don't like attack. I didn't like taking cod liver oil either, but you had to take it. And so maybe I need to attack in the future, we'll see. You know, not only does Mr. Delaney not live in the district, he doesn't even vote frequently. You know, there are a lot of things that I could say and I haven't said those things.
BRADY: Delaney's campaign says he missed voting in only two elections in the past decade and that he lives just 300 yards outside the district boundary - a fact that doesn't disqualify him from running. On the campaign trail, Delaney prefers to focus on his experience as a successful businessman.
DELANEY: I started two New York Stock Exchange companies, which I ran, and I'm coming to this with a set of Democratic values as well. So I think I have a very unique perspective on what needs to happen in this country.
BRADY: Delaney has raised more than three-and-a-half million dollars, half of it his own money. Incumbent Bartlett raised only about a third that amount. After this week's debate, he said even that didn't come easily.
BARTLETT: I sat nearly five hours today. I was scheduled from 11:00 to 4:00 to make fundraising calls. And that just isn't today. That's a lot of days we do that kind of thing.
BRADY: All that money is paying for plenty of television ads, which are even more expensive in Montgomery County on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. That's where most of the new Democrats in the district are located. Back out on the more rural west side, Congressman Bartlett is still the favorite of conservative Republicans like 20-year-old Hannah Dickerson.
HANNAH DICKERSON: I definitely do not believe in abortion. I am definitely pro-life, so I want somebody that believes in that.
BRADY: Democrats in Hagerstown have grown accustomed to being the minority. But now people like Donald Johnson see a win in November.
DONALD JOHNSON: Although I don't know that much about Delaney, anything's better than Roscoe. I'm looking forward to him having a difficult climb since they redistrict and he has to pull Montgomery County, because I don't think it's going to happen.
BRADY: Republican Josh Santiago seems resigned to Congressman Bartlett's future.
JOSH SANTIAGO: I like him and I'm going to vote for him. But if he cannot cut it for the new constituency, hey, hasta la vista.
BRADY: The discussion over how redistricting was handled by Democrats in Maryland is not over. Republicans succeeded in putting a question on the ballot, asking voters if they approve of the new boundaries. But even if voters reject them, that won't help Congressman Bartlett. The current boundaries will remain in place until the 2014 election.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Hagerstown, Maryland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.