By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – Terry Lierman, the Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Rep. Connie Morella in November, told supporters Thursday that he will not seek a rematch in 2002.
Instead, he encouraged Delegate Mark Shriver, D-Montgomery, to step in to what Lierman said was a prime opportunity to capture the Montgomery County seat from Morella, an eight-term incumbent.
“We set the stage and basically woke up a lot of people as to why it is so important to have a Democrat representing them in Congress,” Lierman said in an interview Thursday.
“I have cause to believe that we have teed up the ball and that there will be an excellent Democrat ready to hit it out,” Lierman wrote in an e-mail to his supporters earlier in the day.
He added that Shriver is an ideal candidate who shares his political and philosophical beliefs and who can beat Morella, particularly if the upcoming redistricting decreases the number of Republican voters in the district.
Shriver, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 1994, has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Morella before and said Thursday that he is considering a run for Congress “very, very, very seriously.” He said he welcomed Lierman’s support and will make an announcement on his plans shortly after the conclusion of the General Assembly in April.
A spokesman for Morella said the congresswoman was aware that Lierman had opted not to challenge her again. But spokesman Jonathan Dean said it was too early to discuss the 2002 election.
Morella and Lierman combined to spend upwards of $3 million in the 2000 campaign, making it the most expensive election for the House of Representatives in state history. Lierman spent more than $2 million on the campaign, with $1.4 million coming from his own pocket.
The Democrat was able to garner 46 percent of the November vote. Despite the relatively wide margin, it was the closest any challenger had come to unseating Morella in her seven previous elections.
Lierman, who is busy with his new company, Health Ventures, said he plans to be very active in the 2002 campaign.
“It was privilege to be the Democratic candidate for Congress and to have the support of so many wonderful people,” his e-mail said. “I am very, very proud of the job we did and I am especially proud of the company I keep.”