NORTH POTOMAC, Md. — On Sept. 14, voters in Maryland’s 8th House District will select candidates to face off in the Nov. 2 midterm general election. Like every other member of the House of Representatives, Democrat Chris Van Hollen is up for re-election. But unlike many other Democrats, Van Hollen, who was first elected to represent the 8th District in 2002, is almost certain to retain his seat.
Encompassing most of Maryland’s Montgomery County and the mostly affluent western part of Prince Georges County, the 8th District has historically been solidly blue. In 2008, Van Hollen beat Republican Steve Hudson with 75 percent of the vote.
The 8th District has the 11th highest median income at $90,421 in the nation, according to 2008 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and analysis by proximityone.com.
First elected to Congress in 2002, he defeated long-serving Republican Constance Morella, 51.7 percent to 48.2 percent. He has been re-elected three times, each time beating token Republican opposition by taking more than 70 percent of the vote. In September, four Republicans will face each other for the chance to take on Van Hollen, who, as of June 30, raised more than $1.2 million, according to opensecrets.org. No information is available on the amount raised by his potential opponents.
Van Hollen supported pay parity for civilian employees and has introduced a congressional amendment to block attempts to outsource federal jobs. He has also been able to secure federal funding for a number of local projects, such as transportation initiatives, homeland security projects and support for education. In 2009, he introduced a bill to establish a green bank to finance clean energy and energy-efficient projects.
Potential Republican Opponents
The Republicans — Michael Lee Philips, Bruce L. Stern, William V. Thomas, and Christine Connell Thron — and Libertarian Mark Andrew Grannis are battling to face Van Hollen.
Philips is the frontrunner. A native Texan, he is the son of educators and a former Marine. His website says he is a former NASA project management team leader and worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. He has researched and worked on a private alternative to the government health care reform bill and has made this, along with “the need for real change,” a central component of his platform. He has written a book, How to Succeed with Health Care Reform.
Fiscal responsibility, job creation, national security, the economy, energy and the environment are listed as his other priorities. Philips’ military and government service background put him ahead of other Republican hopefuls, but this is unlikely to overcome Van Hollen’s record of delivering federal money for the 8th District or the blue-voting tendencies of 8th District residents.
The other Republican candidates are unlikely to receive more than a token number of votes, mostly from the conservative rural areas of the district or from the miniscule number of Libertarian voters. Lack of polling data notwithstanding, it is a safe bet that Rep. Van Hollen will begin his fifth term in the U.S. House Representatives when the new Congress is seated in 2011.