COLLEGE PARK – Republicans have failed to put forth a candidate to challenge Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer in a congressional district that they have long said was drifting toward the GOP.
At least two Republicans who filed for the 5th District seat have withdrawn, leaving Green Party candidate Steve Warner as the only challenger to Hoyer, a 13-term incumbent.
“I think that the candidates are looking at the race and realizing that there was a better opportunity elsewhere,” said Audra Miller, a Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman.
She said Ron Miller, who reported raising more than $50,000 to challenge Hoyer, withdrew from the race earlier this summer and announced his candidacy for the District 27 state Senate seat.
Another Republican, Marlon Alvey, had filed with the state Board of Elections last September to run again Hoyer but has since withdrawn.
Despite repeated attempts, neither Alvey nor Ron Miller could be contacted to comment on their decisions to back out of the congressional race.
Audra Miller said that the party was shifting its energies to other races, such as re-electing Gov. Robert Ehrlich and electing Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to the U.S. Senate.
But others pointed to the fact that a successful challenge of an entrenched incumbent like Hoyer is nearly impossible.
“Why would a Republican get involved against some incumbent who has all the advantage? They’d be crazy to,” said James Gimpel, a government professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Hoyer, who currently serves as the House minority whip, was re-elected in 2004 with 69 percent of the vote. He had raised more than $1.6 million for this year’s elections and had almost $800,000 cash on hand as of June 30, according to his report to the Federal Election Commission.
FEC records show that Hoyer gave $185,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $20,000 to the Maryland Democratic Party in 2006, and gave campaign cash to dozens of Democratic congressional hopefuls around the country.
“It’s not uncommon for a candidate to divvy up his war chest for other candidates in need,” Gimpel said, adding that a candidate like Hoyer would still have enough on hand to run a “positive ad or two” if needed for his own race.
But Hoyer’s campaign funds have not deterred Warner, the Green Party candidate.
“I don’t think I need a lot of money to win,” Warner said. He said he has raised close to $1,500, mainly by rolling up his sleeves and going out to actively get out the message that he will “work hard for people in the district.”
While Hoyer reported raising more than $1 million from political action committees, Warner said his grassroots campaign will not accept money from PACs or corporations.
“Our Congress was set up so that the representatives were only supposed to be accepting money from the people,” Warner said. “Corporations are not people. They do not represent the values and philosophies of their employees. Their employees are the individuals.”
Warner believes that campaign finance numbers do not tell the whole story.
“I’m getting a good sense from the public that they are ready for a change,” he said.
While that may be, Gimpel said the odds are still long for challengers.
“It would take some huge scandal,” to unseat a member of Congress, said Gimpel. Or the incumbent “would have to go out and kill somebody!”
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