WASHINGTON – The candidates vying in Tuesday’s primary in the 5th Congressional District care less about which of them emerges victorious than that someone beats 28-year Democratic incumbent, Rep. Steny Hoyer in the general election.
Hoyer is the House Majority Leader and responsible for shepherding much of the Obama administration’s legislation through Congress. Among his many legislative credits is the Americans with Disabilities Act. In past years he’s won the district with a wide majority — 73 percent of the vote in 2008.
“I have a strong record of producing results for the 5th District,” Hoyer said in an email, touting his record in creating jobs, U.S. manufacturing and small businesses. “I want to keep cops on the street, teachers in the classroom and to give the highest level of support to our veterans and First Responders.”
But Hoyer has been at it too long, his rivals say.
“I’m hoping one of us can beat Steny,” said Chris Chaffee, 49, who is running as a Republican. “I believe any of us is a better choice than what we have now. It’s time for Steny to move on.”
“I’m committed to focusing on Nov. 2, no matter who the party nominee is,” said Collins Bailey, 56, also a Republican. “I’ll work now all the way through Nov. 2 regardless of who the nominee is because we must change Congress.” He also challenged Hoyer in 2008.
Bailey even had positive things to say about one of Hoyer’s Democratic challengers, Sylvanus Bent. “He’s a great guy, he would make a great congressman,” Bailey said. “He’s not caught up in party politics.”
And the “beat-Hoyer” team is not just made up of Republican candidates. Bent, 78, said he thinks that Americans need to vote for change in Congress and, “(Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi and Hoyer would be a good place to start…
“Steny Hoyer is looking out for himself,” Bent said. “He’s done a good job of taking care of himself and not a good job taking care of his constituents.”
Republican frontrunner Charles Lollar is so enthusiastic about change that he’s been a featured speaker at Tea Party rallies.
“I believe in term limits, I don’t believe in career politicians,” he said. “I think there was a time when Mr. Hoyer represented himself from a more conservative standpoint.” Since then, however, on points like fiscal responsibility, Lollar said “(Hoyer’s) lost his roots.”
“I am running to show District 5 that they have a choice,” Lollar said, but make no mistake, “We are going to win the general election.”
So far, Lollar has raised almost $200,000 and has received endorsements from the Tea Party group Freedom Works along with several other conservative groups. The Southern Maryland and Gazette Newspapers endorsed him in the GOP primary.
However, his fundraising total is a fraction of the more than $3 million Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, has raised. Hoyer’s Democratic challengers, neither of whom has raised any money, feel this David and Goliath dynamic is one of the problems with Washington.
“The biggest problem with defeating Congressman Hoyer is that he gets (millions) from lobbyists,” Bent said. “Lobbying is just a legal name for bribery.”
Hoyer’s other Democratic challenger, 27-year-old graduate student Andrew Gall acknowledges, “I have much fewer resources than my opponent,” and added he hopes his campaign spreads by word of mouth.
“Our legislative process is dominated by money interests,” he said. “We need to push for public financing of elections to keep special interests out.”
But while money is a major factor in elections, the Maryland GOP is confident. “Absolutely,” the party nominee will have a chance against Hoyer, said Ryan Mahoney, political director for the Maryland Republican Party.
“If you look at what’s happened in the elections that have happened so far, there’s an anti-incumbent sentiment out there.” Mahoney said. “There’s a lot of people who are unhappy with how Democrats have run Washington. I think either Lollar or Collins Bailey would provide a fresh voice in Washington.”
Lollar agrees. “I haven’t thought much about losing, I have to be honest with you.”
Chris Robinson is also on the Republican ballot, but did not respond to request for comment. Gavin Shickle is running unchallenged as the Libertarian candidate.
The 5th District includes St. Mary’s, Charles, Calvert and parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.