For voters in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, it’s proving difficult to find representation right at home.
Four candidates are vying for the seat Tuesday, but only one of them, Libertarian Kevin Caldwell, lives in the 6th District’s jigsaw piece of Western Maryland.
Neither the Republican nor Democratic nominee is a resident — nor, for that matter, is Rep. John Delaney, the Democrat retiring from the seat.
“It’s sort of a joke that when you say you live in Maryland people will often say, ‘Where are you really from?’ ” said Paul Ellington, a spokesman for Republican Amie Hoeber. “So in those areas close to D.C., it’s not a hindrance. In some of the other areas, however, there have been questions.”
There is no constitutional problem with the situation. The only requirements the founders established for serving in the House are that the person be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the U.S. for at least seven years and a resident of the state in which they serve.
Even the notion that a lawmaker should come from a specific geography such as a state was uniquely American for many decades, said David Karol, a political scientist at the University of Maryland.
Although the template has shifted somewhat, it has been common in parliamentary systems for the party to select a candidate for a race. Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair began their careers seeking parliamentary seats in different locations from where they lived, Mr. Karol said.
At least 21 House members, including Mr. Delaney, live outside of the districts they represent, The Washington Post found last year.
The Post found four House members from Florida who lived outside their districts and attributed the situation to the state Supreme Court’s redrawing of lines in 2015, leaving the lawmakers living on the outside.
In Maryland, analysts also blame the way the district was redrawn.
“I think this is an atypical case,” Mr. Karol said. “It’s a very unusual district to begin with in that part of it is metropolitan and suburban and then it also goes all the way out almost to West Virginia.”
The 6th District includes a part of Montgomery County, a liberal and wealthy Washington suburb with a median household income of about $100,000, and two of its poorest counties, Garrett and Allegany, where the median family income is less than $50,000, according to the Census Bureau.
Ms. Hoeber and Democrat David Trone live in the neighboring 8th District.
Mr. Caldwell, the Libertarian candidate and a resident of Brunswick, tried to raise the residency issue at the Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum in Hagerstown on Oct. 24, but all of the candidates sidestepped the issue by blaming it on gerrymandering.
“It’s not a disqualifying factor for a lot of the voters I talk to, but the neighborhood where Mr. Delaney and the Republican and Democratic candidate lives in isn’t very representative of the district,” Mr. Caldwell said. “Put it this way: It’s not class warfare, but there are more private tennis courts in that neighborhood than there are in all or some of the counties in the district.”
Mr. Trone, 63, the Democrat, ran two years ago in the 8th District, spending an estimated $13.4 million of a fortune he has built owning Total Wines & More. This time, he has poured $15.9 million into his campaign, making him the biggest spender for a House seat in U.S. history.
“We think it’s fair at this point for the people to ask, ‘Is he really in it to represent the people of the 6th District, or is this just about getting David a seat in Congress?’” Mr. Ellington said. “The people should ask just how important they are to him.”
Ms. Hoeber, 76, who has spent nearly $700,000 on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is no stranger to 6th District voters, given she unsuccessfully challenged her neighbor, Mr. Delaney, for the seat in 2016.
Neither the Trone campaign nor George Gluck, the Green Party candidate, responded to a request for comment.
Residency is an issue only if it is raised, and in Maryland’s 6th District, it doesn’t seem to matter.
“Speaking bluntly, other than political junkies like me, I don’t think a lot of businesses or voters even know that neither Rep. Delaney nor most of those who want his seat don’t even live here,” said Rick Weldon, a former state representative and the newly appointed president of the Frederick Chamber of Commerce.
More than the calendar is working against anyone who wants to make an issue of nonresidency in the district. Given that only Mr. Caldwell has planted his flag there, what is left for the others to say?
“That’s a pretty glass house right there,” Mr. Weldon said.
• James Varney can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.