State Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) traveled nearly 200 miles Thursday, stopping in five counties along the way, to announce his candidacy for the 6th Congressional District seat — one of Maryland’s most politically gerrymandered districts.
“There are a lot of people in District 6 who do not feel represented at all,” Parrott said standing with family, friends and a pastor late in the day in Germantown, his last stop. “We have a congressman who doesn’t live in the district, who doesn’t have a lot in common with the district.”
Parrott runs his own transportation engineering firm, Traffic Solutions, Inc., in Washington County – one of the most western counties in the 6th District.
On the side he’s a part-time state delegate serving his third term. He earns around $50,000 a year in salary for his second job.
In Germantown Thursday, Parrott said he has roots in the Washington, D.C., area. He was born at the Bethesda Naval Hospital and went to school at the University of Maryland College Park.
Parrott is aiming to take on freshman Rep. David J. Trone (D) in the 2020 general election. Trone owns Total Wine & More, a national wine and beer retail chain with stores across the country. He started the business from scratch with his brother in the early 1990s in Delaware. He resides in Potomac with his wife and children. He’s a multi-millionaire.
(Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation has been a financial supporter of Maryland Matters.)
A Republican stronghold for two decades, the 6th District now stretches from Maryland’s most western border in Garrett County to some of Montgomery County’s most liberal suburbs. Since Democrats redrew the district in 2011, a Democrat has won the seat in the last four elections.
The district is now made up of all of Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties and parts of Frederick and Montgomery counties.
Parrott said he would like to widen Interstate 270 into the Frederick area, using express toll lanes to pay for the project.
“I really care about transportation issues,” Parrot said. “I-270 should have been widened 20 years ago.”
Parrott said, like Trone, he would also like to focus on the nation’s opioid and fentanyl crisis. He said he would attack the problem at the border, where the drugs flow into the country.
The Republican supports school vouchers and would ban federal funding for abortions. He also wants to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act.
On immigration, Parrott said he would close the border to undocumented immigrants.
One of Parrott’s biggest obstacles in the race is sure to be fundraising. Trone poured $16 million of his own money into his 2018 race. In the 2016 primary election, he spent approximately $13 million as a candidate in the 8th Congressional District, finishing second behind now-Rep. Jamie Raskin in the Democratic primary.
Parrott said he knows it will be a challenge, but after spending a year in exploratory mode, it will be easier for him to raise money now that’s he announced.
Through Sept. 30, Parrott reported $83,828 cash on hand.
“I won’t be self-funding,” Parrot said laughing.
In 2012, after thousands of Montgomery County Democrats were drawn into the 6th District and conservative and rural voters from Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick and Harford counties were removed, Democrat John K. Delaney defeated 10-term Republican incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett with 59% of the vote.
“Redistricting has caused a major shift in voting,” said James F. Shalleck, president of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, and a Republican. “It changed the political complexion of the district.”
In 2014, Delaney narrowly defeated Republican candidate Daniel Bongino, a former U.S. Secret Service agent, 49.7% to 48.2%. But Democrats recovered, and in 2016 Delaney defeated Republican Amie Hoeber, 56% to 40%.
With each election since 2014, Democrats continue to expand their voting base in the 6th District, but Parrot said he’s not worried.
He plans to continue to campaign in Montgomery, but will pay closer attention to Western Maryland, where Bongino won the lion’s share of votes in 2014.
Montgomery County Republican Club President Mark Uncapher said, however, that there is an electorate in Montgomery for Parrot to tap into.
“There were a lot of of voters in Montgomery County with the election of [Republican Gov. Lawrence J.] Hogan who are not Democratic primary voters, but are more independent-minded,” Uncapher said.
Parrot is also predicting that efforts to impeach President Trump will backfire on Democrats the way Republicans suffered politically when President Clinton was impeached.
“Republicans paid a price for that,” Parrot said. “I feel Democrats will pay a price this year.”
Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected]