WASHINGTON ——A longtime top aide and confidant to Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett who has considered running for his boss' seat in 2012 abruptly resigned, the congressman confirmed Thursday, fueling speculation that the 10-term incumbent will not seek another term.
Bud Otis, who has served as Bartlett's chief of staff for 11 years and who befriended the congressman more than three decades ago, submitted his resignation after rumors surfaced that he might run for Maryland's newly redrawn 6th District if Bartlett decided to retire.
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Bartlett, 85, said he remains close to Otis, a fixture at his side for years who frequently commuted with him between Washington and the congressman's Buckeystown farm. "The last thing I said, before we hugged, was that 'I love you, Bud,'" Bartlett said.
The breakup came as Maryland's Republican Party chairman, Alex Mooney, announced that he, too, will consider running for the seat. If Bartlett stays in the race, that could create a highly unusual primary contest between a state GOP leader and a sitting member of Congress from the same party.
Both events ultimately served to raise questions about whether Bartlett will retire next year. Those questions grew recently when the congressman reported lackluster fundraising over the summer. Asked about his future in Congress, Bartlett repeated that he intends to run.
"I am still in," he said.
Rumors have floated for weeks, including on multiple political websites, that Otis would consider running in the district, which state lawmakers redrew during the October session to be more friendly to Democrats. In an interview, Otis did little to dispel those rumors, though he would not say directly whether he would run.
"I think he needs to decide to run or not. I think my leaving will give him more clarity on that," Otis, 73, said of his former boss. "I'm trying to let him make up his mind. … I want this to be a Republican district."
Mooney, 40, cited Otis' potential candidacy as part of the reason he launched an exploratory committee for the seat. He vowed to step down as party chair if he enters the race. State Sen. David R. Brinkley, a Republican representing Carroll and Frederick counties, also said Thursday that he will explore running.
Though the focus now shifts to the state's April primary, the 6th District has for weeks been considered one of the most competitive House races in the country for November's general election. The new district, which includes portions of Montgomery and Frederick counties along with the rest of Western Maryland, offers Democrats one of their few pickup opportunities nationally.
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Rob Garagiola, who is aggressively campaigning for the seat, won the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Thursday, a sign he will have support from many more state party leaders.
Bartlett, meanwhile, scoffed at the idea that he has any difficulty raising money, noting that he recently raised $150,000 to help pay for a federal lawsuit over the redistricting.
Baltimore Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this article.