By Christopher anderson
WASHINGTON – The specter of recent sniper attacks in the Washington area has campaigns scaling back door-to-door volunteer efforts and personal appearances less than a month before Election Day.
“We have right now no door-to-door activities in our campaign,” said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, whose district includes parts of Anne Arundel County. “Before we have any type of real activity like that, it’s a prudent thing for me to talk to the campaign workers.”
State Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery, canceled appearances Tuesday at Montgomery County Metro stops by four Democratic congresswomen who are endorsing his bid for Congress. Most of the past week’s fatal shootings have been in Montgomery County, where Van Hollen is seeking the 8th District seat.
The campaign postponed the events after talking to U.S. Capitol Police.
“We didn’t want to advertise that members of Congress would be outside,” said Steve Jost, Van Hollen’s campaign manager.
Khalid Pitts, state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said his group’s volunteers weren’t going door to door either because of the shootings.
“Unfortunately, with the shooting, everything’s been kind of put on hold. We’re concerned about door-to-door canvassing for our volunteers’ safety,” Pitts said.
Two other anti-gun organizations said some of their volunteers have called in asking that they be switched from door-to-door campaigning to phone banks, because they would rather not be outside.
Capitol Police have increased security around the Capitol and also recommended that lawmakers scale back outdoor appearances, both on and off Capitol Hill.
“We’ve made the congressional community aware of the things they need to do in their daily comings and goings,” said Marsha Krug, a Capitol Police spokeswoman.
Hill staff members said the Sergeants at Arms for both the House and Senate have sent messages to every congressional office, urging members to “exercise an abundance of caution, this would include reducing outside activities to the extent possible.”
Gilchrest said the memo has served more as a reminder to be more observant.
“It just helped all of us, the members and staff and people on Capitol Hill, be a little more diligent and aware of their surroundings,” he said.
But some legislators are not altering their schedules. At least four news conferences went ahead as scheduled on the grounds of the Capitol Tuesday.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, went forward with a planned outdoor news conference on fire safety in College Park Tuesday and does not plan to alter his schedule at all, said his spokeswoman, Stacey Farnen.
“I think that all participants felt like we were safe having the event,” Farnen said of the College Park appearance.
As for the increased security on the Hill, Farnen said that has become just another part of the job.
“We already had a heightened state of security on Capitol Hill following Sept. 11. People are aware that we already are a potential terrorist target. It’s something people are thinking about every day anyway,” Farnen said. — CNS reporters Catherine Matacic and Kory Dodd contributed to this story.