Contrasting candidates work campaign trail in retooled 8th District -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected Oct. 15, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

In recent days, U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. has campaigned at the Great Frederick Fair, played Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in practice debates with Vice President Joe Biden, and met with farmers in parts of the newly drawn 8th Congressional District.

Despite juggling his national roles as a frequent spokesman for congressional Democrats, Van Hollen has been active with his own congressional race in a district that now includes parts of Frederick and Carroll counties. The congressional map was redrawn in accordance with the 2010 census.

“I’m happy to go anywhere in the district,” Van Hollen said.

Republican opponent Ken Timmerman said he trails in his internal polls to Van Hollen, but that he plans to gain ground in the short time remaining before the election with a new radio advertising campaign.

Timmerman said he has campaigned throughout the district, spending days at the Great Frederick Fair, compared to short visits by Van Hollen.

Once a district primarily in suburban Montgomery County, the new 8th is much more diverse.

But whether the constituents are a dairy farmer in Carroll County or a federal worker who commutes by Metro into Washington, they share many of the same basic concerns about education, affordable health care and the economy, Van Hollen said.

The congressman, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is heavily favored to win re-election.

Since capturing the seat in 2002, Van Hollen has won re-election in landslides, including the 2010 race, when he garnered 73 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Michael Lee Philips’ 24 percent.

Although redistricting resulted in more Republicans in the 8th Congressional District, Democrats account for about 51 percent of the voters; Democrats made up 68 percent of the old district.

“There is really only one competitive congressional race in Maryland and that’s the 6th District,” said Todd E. Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College who teaches on Maryland politics. Longtime Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett is seeking re-election against Democratic newcomer John Delaney in the 6th District, which was redrawn to include more Democratic areas.

Timmerman said the new 8th District is more conservative, favoring him. He soon will air radio ads that will help him gain ground in a race where he sees Van Hollen as vulnerable, Timmerman said.

No independent polls have been released for the race.

The two candidates, who met in a debate Sept. 28, could not be further apart on most issues.

Van Hollen, who is pro-abortion rights, a strong advocate for the Affordable Care Act and the ranking member on the House Budget Committee at the center of federal budget negotiations, said he supports the recommendations of a bipartisan committee that has called for the federal deficit to be tackled with a mix of $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases for the wealthiest Americans.

Timmerman opposes abortion, but in any legislation that would limit the practice of abortion would support exceptions for rape, incest and if the life of the mother is endangered.

He says his first vote would be to repeal ObamaCare and advocates reductions to “everything” in the federal budget, except defense spending, which he believes already has had enough cuts.

“That way everyone’s ox gets gored,” Timmerman said.

Correction: The story said that Ken Timmerman opposes abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. The candidate says he is pro-life but, for the record, supports exceptions for rape, incest and if the life of the mother is endangered.

The story also stated an incorrect figure for the percentage of the 8th District that is Democratic following the redrawing of the congressional boundaries. About 51 percent of the district’s voters are registered Democrats.

Also, the story should have said that no independent polls have been released on the 8th District race. The candidates conduct internal polling.

And, the story should have said the candidates have met in one debate, held Sept. 28, not multiple debates.