He's a rookie in Congress, but Rep. Andy Harris is positioned to become a
As delegates from across the country converge at the
"Andy has paid his dues," said Louis Pope, the Republican national committeeman from Maryland who has arranged to have Harris speak to the state's delegation Wednesday. "And Andy will be here for many years to come."
The 55-year-old anesthesiologist has
The district includes the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties.
Internal shifts in the state's GOP also have worked to Harris' advantage. One of Maryland's Republican stalwarts, Rep.
Ehrlich is in
National Republican leaders suspended the convention schedule for Monday as
Bartlett, a 10-term incumbent, announced last month that he would not attend the convention. Harris, who was an early supporter of Newt Gingrich for president, will speak to both the Maryland and Puerto Rico delegations this week. Harris' wife was raised in Puerto Rico.
In contrast to Bartlett — and, for that matter, most members of Congress — Harris has kept a toe in state politics as he serves in Congress. The former state senator was a vocal critic of toll increases approved by the Maryland Transportation Authority last year. More recently, he has pushed his supporters to oppose state ballot initiatives in November on same-sex marriage and expanded gambling.
"He's been a very strong supporter of all the things the state party is doing," said Diana Waterman, an at-large delegate to the convention from
But Ehrlich said it's too early to anoint Harris as the face of the Maryland GOP.
"I think the Bartlett race is going to be close. Do not write him off. Do not write Roscoe Bartlett off," Ehrlich said in an interview before leaving Maryland for Florida. "So I think it's very premature, that question."
During last year's special session of the General Assembly, many
Harris, meanwhile, has been heavily engaged in the race for Maryland's 2nd Congressional District, currently held by Democratic Rep.
Ruppersberger is likely to win the race, but Republicans are waiting to see how big a dent Jacobs can make in his margin of victory.
Harris, who also has campaigned for Bartlett, said recruitment and fundraising are among his top priorities.
"We are obviously building a farm team," Harris said when asked how he sees his role in Maryland evolving over the next several years. "The most important thing is for us to unify around a principled message, and I think that message will be clear in 2014."
Harris has had his share of missteps. Most notably, he complained in a private orientation for new lawmakers last year that his congressional health care plan did not kick in on his first day in office. Harris had focused his 2010 campaign on repealing President
And his Democratic opponent this year,
"Harris has consistently taken political positions that put him at odds with environmentalists, women, and seniors," said Rebecca Scott, Rosen's campaign manager, in a statement. "This extremism is well documented both in his time in D.C. and his time in Annapolis."
Still, Harris beat incumbent Democrat
"He's articulate, he's good-looking, he's mature and he's not a neophyte," said Audrey Scott, a former state GOP chairwoman who also is a convention delegate for Romney. "He's a wonderful representative for the party."
Baltimore Sun reporter Matthew Hay Brown contributed to this article.