Mooney’s announcement came the same day another Frederick County Republican, state Del. Kathryn L. Afzali, filed to run in the 6th District.
With Wednesday’s candidate filing deadline nearing, 10-term incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett now has six GOP challengers, including Afzali and state Sen. David R. Brinkley.
At a morning press conference in Frederick, Mooney said he was halting his one-month exploratory campaign for the 6th District seat because he’s convinced Bartlett is serious about campaigning and fundraising.
In about a month, Mooney raised $108,000 for a possible run for Congress, his campaign announced last week. He also named campaign coordinators in each of the 6th District counties.
Mooney, a Frederick County resident and chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, served three terms in the state Senate. He represented District 3, which is mostly in Frederick County and includes the southern tip of Washington County.
He said he is is supporting Bartlett for re-election.
Democrat Ronald N. Young, the current District 3 senator, defeated Mooney in the 2010 general election.
Afzali, who has served one year as a delegate, released a statement on Monday that she would be running for Congress, but didn’t say which district until Tuesday.
Afzali and Brinkley both live in the 8th District. Members of Congress aren’t required to live in the district they represent.
Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright referred a request for comment to a campaign consultant.
The consultant, Bob Wickers, said Bartlett is “very excited and encouraged that Alex is coming on board as a supporter.”
Asked if Mooney’s exploratory committee created any tension with Bartlett, Wickers said, “None whatsoever.”
Wickers said Bartlett has been committed to re-election from the start; other people have been sparking the speculation that he wasn’t.
Wickers said he and his firm, Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders, started working for Bartlett a few weeks ago.
The firm’s website says Wickers has worked for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and was part of an American team that helped then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin get re-elected in 1996.
In a news release on Tuesday, Afzali said that although Bartlett, Brinkley and Mooney (assuming he was running) have “some of the qualities that District 6 voters are looking for, the Democrat machine that will face them won’t hesitate to highlight each of their personal and/or legislative shortcomings. I think it is a long shot for any of them to win a general election.”
Afzali’s news release says the 6th District needs a “strong conservative that will appeal to independents, is steadfast in constitutional principals (sic), but able to cross party lines collaboratively.”
She presented herself as a candidate “with the energy and the ‘chutzpah’ to bring a positive message to new voters who have probably never heard their name prior to meeting them.”
Besides Bartlett, Brinkley and Afzali, the rest of the Republican field is former Del. Robin Ficker, Robert Coblentz, Joseph T. Krysztoforski and Brandon Orman Rippeon.
State Sen. Robert J. Garagiola is considered a top contender for the Democratic nomination, particularly with the 6th District redrawn to take in a large chunk of Montgomery County. He is battling John Delaney, Dr. Milad L. Pooran and Charles Bailey in a Democratic primary.
The primary will be held April 3 and the general election on Nov. 6.
Mooney, a Republican, has long said he would be interested in running for the 6th District seat in Congress if Bartlett did not run again.
However, Mooney said Tuesday that he never promised to never run against Bartlett. Rather, he said, he wouldn’t run against Bartlett as long as the congressman maintained his conservative principles, which he has.
Even though Bartlett filed last June to run again in 2012, many Republicans were not convinced he’d follow through after showing little evidence of fundraising in what was shaping up as a contentious race.
When word got out that Bud Otis, Bartlett’s chief of staff at the time, was trying to line up Republican support for a possible run if Bartlett stepped down, Mooney filed an exploratory committee.
Mooney said it was a good sign for Bartlett when Otis vacated his position and when Bartlett started fundraising more strongly.
Mooney said his campaign account will keep the money he raised, unless anyone asks for their donation to be returned. He said he will again consider a run for Congress in 2014.
Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, and Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, who Mooney had chosen as county campaign coordinators, appeared with him on Tuesday. Both said they now support Bartlett’s run for another term.