The Republican field in Maryland’s 6th congressional district is growing.
On Wednesday, Tom Royals, a former Navy officer and combat aviator, announced his candidacy with a splashy two-minute biographical video. Heath Barnes, the mayor of Woodsboro who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates last year, is also gearing up to run.
Royals’ video, complete with music and images worthy of the “Top Gun” movies, leans into his military career. Speaking to the camera, he recalls being a junior in high school during the 9/11 terrorist strikes and applying to attend the Naval Academy several months later. The ad features a picture of his application letter, in which he wrote, “When I die, I want to know that I have led a life in the service of God, country, and others.”
The ad goes on to describe Royals’ military service in the Persian Gulf. “Now,” he says, “I’m ready to take the values that guided me in combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for our country in Congress.” The video then pivots to current affairs.
“As my wife and I grow our own family, I see an America under a different kind of attack — from left-wing politicians targeting the rights of parents,” Royals says. “Lawlessness on the border and rampant crime. Reckless spending and out-of-control debt threatening our economy.”
On the education front, the candidate vows: “I will never stop fighting for the rights of our children to be educated, not indoctrinated in the classroom.” And he concludes his pitch by saying, “When America is under attack, you send a fighter.”
After leaving the military, Royals received an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and is now an IT sales executive. He and his wife Cathleen met in mass. They now have eight children and live in Germantown.
For the campaign, the neophyte candidate is working with FP1 Strategies, a national GOP consulting and media firm with a sizable stable of well-known clients.
Barnes, meanwhile, told Maryland Matters on Wednesday that he plans to formally announce his bid in a matter of days. He has relaunched his Twitter page and has a campaign website and Facebook page in development. He also stepped down as second vice chair of the Maryland Republican Party earlier this week.
Although he is openly gay, Barnes attracted national headlines recently by appearing before the Frederick County Board of Education saying he would not send his children to public school — he currently doesn’t have kids — because of the “sexualization” of education, an apparent reference to a school system policy that encourages the teaching of gender inclusiveness.
Barnes said he can flip the district, which has been represented by Democrats since 2013, to the GOP column, because he can appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.
“We’re going to need a candidate that comes through the primary on the Republican side that relates to both sides,” he said. “I don’t think extremism is going to work on either side.”
Barnes also said his financial struggles as a young man — he lived in his car briefly when he was in his ’20s — makes him relatable to a wide swath of voters in the largely middle class district, and provides a contrast to the outgoing congressman, David Trone (D), a wealthy business owner who is running for U.S. Senate.
“When you don’t have David Trone’s millions, either side can win this district,” he said. “It’s a level playing field.”
In his day job, Barnes is a human resources officer for a private company. He has been burgess — the equivalent of mayor — in Woodsboro since May 2021. He finished last in a four-way Republican primary for three state House seats in Frederick County’s 4th District last year.
Six Republicans have now announced bids for the seat or filed paperwork to become candidates, and the list is almost certain to grow. The Democratic field is also growing.
Unclear at the moment is whether former Del. Dan Cox, the GOP’s 2022 nominee for governor, is going to run for the 6th District seat.
Official portraits of the O’Malley’s unveiled
The portrait of former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) won’t be gathering dust in the governor’s mansion awaiting its installation in the State House.
O’Malley and his wife, retired Baltimore City District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley, attended a private unveiling ceremony Wednesday night hosted by Gov. Wes Moore (D) and his wife, Dawn, at the governor’s mansion.
The event marks the long-awaited arrival of the O’Malley’s official portraits. Dozens of former O’Malley-era and current officials, as well as current and former lawmakers, including former Sen. Barbara Mikulksi (D), attended the invitation-only event that was closed to the press.
O’Malley declined to answer questions about the portrait as he left the event.
The former governor’s portrait is traditional. It features the two-term Democrat standing near a window in his State House office. There are several pieces of personal artwork visible in the background.
The portrait by Jorge Alberto Gonzlez is based on a photo by Jay Baker, who served as O’Malley’s official photographer. Baker, the first African American to hold the position of state photographer, died in June at the age of 64.
A depiction of the portrait is featured on Gonzalez’s website.
The portrait of Katie Curran O’Malley drew the most attention.
The first lady is featured at the base of the staircase in Government House. She is wearing her judicial robe leaning on the banister. In her hand is a gavel that belonged to her father, J. Joseph Curran, when he served as chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
The portrait by Hans Guerin is fairly unique among other portraits in the state collection. Most feature the first ladies in more formal attire. Yumi Hogan, country’s first Asian American first lady, is featured wearing a traditional Korean hanbok.
Curran O’Malley’s portrait is featured on Guerin’s website.
Archives officials on Wednesday said the portrait of the governor will take its place in the Governor’s Reception Room inside the State House between Maryland’s last two Republican governors, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Larry Hogan.
Katie Curran O’Malley’s portrait will be installed alongside other recent first ladies in Government House.
The former governor’s portrait will be installed in the State House with no additional fanfare.