HYATTSVILLE – Democrats closed ranks Friday behind 8th District congressional nominee Christopher Van Hollen, with three of his primaryrivals endorsing his bid to unseat Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda.
Just days after one of the most expensive primary races in thecountry, second-place finisher Mark Shriver presented Van Hollen with a$1,000 check and pledged to “help in any way” he can.
One of the first and most pressing ways to help will be to raisemoney: Van Hollen spent $1.25 million on the primary, leaving him withjust $100,000 on hand for the general election.
Morella, who had no challenger in the GOP primary, has spent only$300,000 so far and has $1.7 million in the bank for the generalelection.
But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will supply VanHollen with “all the resources he needs to be competitive,” spokeswomanKim Rubey said Friday.
“This race is a top priority for us, and we’ll do what it takes toelect a Democrat,” Rubey said.
Democrats need to pick up six seats to regain control of the House in November and the national committee has targeted Morella’s seat as one ofthe most vulnerable.
“The whole cry is unity because we’ve got to (take back the House),”said Terry Lierman, who ran unsuccessfully against Morella in 2000. “Thestakes are too high not to make it happen this time.”
The kiss-and-make-up started Friday morning when Shriver campaignedwith Van Hollen at the Silver Spring Metro station. It continued at anoon press conference in Prince George’s County with Van Hollen, Shriverand two other unsuccessful Democratic candidates, Ira Shapiro and DeborahVollmer.
The four Democrats were just two days removed from what WTOP political analyst Mark Plotkin has said was not “an ugly primary . . . but ahard-fought primary.”
Van Hollen finished with 43.5 percent of the vote to Shriver’s 40.5 percent, Shapiro’s 12.7 percent and Vollmer’s 2.5 percent. A fifthcandidate, Anthony Jaworski, got 0.8 percent of the primary vote.
Shapiro said he spent heavily in the primary, because he expected tohave national party support if he won the nomination. But he wound upspending about $800,000 on his losing effort, and said he is about$150,000 in debt.
Shriver, who raised more than $2.5 million, still had about $500,000in the bank at the end of the primary. But that money was earmarked forthe general election and will have to be returned to donors. A campaignspokesman said “the bills are still coming in” but that Shriver could endup $10,000 to $20,000 in the hole.
The four Democrats said Friday that there are not any solid plans forthe kind of support Van Hollen might get, but Shriver said his supportwill include financial help. Shriver has also written to thousands of hissupporters, urging them to back Van Hollen, and he is working to getunions that endorsed him in the primary to switch their allegiance.
With just seven weeks to the election, support has to come soon. Van Hollen said Friday he is confident that it will come.
“There were many predictions that this Democratic primary would divideus. Instead, this Democratic primary energized us,” he said Friday.
Morella campaign manager Tony Caligiuri said the Republican incumbentis not worried about the Democrat’s “take back the House” rallying cry.
“The fatal flaw of that strategy is that the negative, partisan tonesort of backfires on such a well-educated and issue-savvy district,” hesaid.
Democrats hope it will give direction to their supporters instead.
“Now that we have a candidate, people will laser in and support this vigorously,” Lierman said. “It’s a whole new ballgame for everybody.”