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Newburg resident and conservative activist Charles Lollar plans to officially launch his 2014 run for governor with a September bus tour that will begin in St. Mary’s City and travel the state before finishing outside the State House at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis.

A former chairman of the Charles County Republican Central Committee, Lollar has been weighing the decision to run for some time, but had maintained that his wife and four daughters would have the final say.

“And they did,” he said. “We’re excited about this. From the time we step out, we’re going to be mobilizing every county. We expect it to be big, and we’re really hoping to make a difference here in Maryland.”

Following Del. Ron George (R-Anne Arundel) and Harford County Executive David Craig (R), Lollar is the third official entrant in a GOP primary race that is expected to become even more crowded. Both George and Craig have been featured guests at recent Charles GOP Central Committee fundraisers.

Currently on sabbatical from Cintas Corp., for which he works as a general manager in Prince George’s County, Lollar said he recently completed active duty orders with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and has been focused on speaking around the state as chairman of New Day Maryland, the conservative political action committee he formed in 2008 to advocate for limited government and low taxes.

Lollar said his “leadership experience” in the military, as a business executive, leading a nonprofit and as chairman of a local central committee separate him from George, a business owner, and Craig, who previous to being elected county executive was a mayor and middle school vice principal.

“Far and away, I have the most leadership experience in a more diverse set of industries than any of my peers,” Lollar said.

Lollar said the state needs a governor “who isn’t concerned with running for president, for crying out loud,” referring to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and believes its government needs to be “self-sufficient.” He supports a transition to zero-based budgeting, whereby every budget item would need to be annually approved, rather than just year-to-year changes.

“This state needs leadership and this state needs integrity and that’s what I intend to bring,” he said. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Maryland needs a business-minded and true conservative leader. Maryland needs a leader that’s not afraid to be bold, to stand up to partisan interest on both sides of the aisle.”

Lollar also said that he would push to increase business education and the presence of business clubs in public schools, and look to develop partnerships between businesses and high schools to create more job opportunities for recent graduates.

Lollar considered making a gubernatorial bid in the 2010 election, but opted to instead run for U.S. Congress when questions arose over whether he had been a registered Maryland voter long enough to serve as governor.

Per the Maryland Constitution, governors must have lived and been registered to vote in the state for at least five years prior to their election. Lollar moved to the state from suburban Atlanta in October 2005, and claimed he registered to vote shortly thereafter, but his voter registration card was dated June 2006.

Lollar ended up losing his 5th District bid to U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) by close to 30 points, but last week he deemed his campaign “successful” because he beat the longtime congressman in three of the 5th District’s five counties, including in Hoyer’s home county of St. Mary’s.

Lollar defeated Hoyer in St. Mary’s, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties by a combined 55.1 percent to 43.3 percent. But 64 percent of the district’s 241,000 votes were cast in Prince George’s and Charles counties, which Hoyer won by a combined margin of more than 3-to-1.

Lollar said he would have performed better in heavily Democratic Charles and Prince George’s if he hadn’t needed to spend time before the 2010 primary campaigning in Republican areas against fellow GOP candidate Collins Bailey, a Waldorf businessman who had previously lost to Hoyer in the 2008 election.

“We would have won the 5th, and you’d be talking to the congressman of the 5th Congressional District,” Lollar said.

Though Lollar put his gubernatorial aspirations on hold for a few years, his supporters never did — an online “Draft Charles Lollar” movement which began in 2009 still is active today.

“He generated a heck of a lot of excitement when he ran against Hoyer down here, and I know a lot of folks in the Republican party have been trying to figure out, ‘how do we cultivate this guy into a GOP rockstar in the state?’” said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Eberly called a statewide run for governor or U.S. Senate a more “logical choice” over a campaign against Hoyer, and deemed Lollar a formidable candidate for the Republican nomination.

Clearly conservative and a charismatic public speaker, Lollar “is a far more exciting candidate than George,” Eberly said. “And I think Lollar checks a lot of the boxes for fiscal and social conservatives.”

In a Republican primary with traditionally low turnout, “I think Lollar is more likely to inspire that kind of passion than a moderate like Craig, even though in a general election Craig is by far the more electable nominee,” Eberly added.

With Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) considered an early favorite to win the Democratic nomination for governor, Lollar’s candidacy raises the possibility that, following the 2014 primary, Maryland could be virtually guaranteed its first black governor.

“About damn time,” Eberly said, noting that Maryland’s population boasts the highest percentage of African-Americans outside of the Old South.

“I think it would be something good for the state of Maryland,” Lollar said. “I think it would be something good for the country. It just goes to show how far we’ve come in race relations and in terms of relationships as Americans.”

Were he and Brown to win their respective primaries, Lollar believes his business experience and the current administration’s record would give him the upper hand.

“O’Malley’s policies have destroyed the state of Maryland,” he said. “Brown can’t run from those. They’ll be hung over his head wherever he goes. If I was [Lt.] Gov. Brown, I wouldn’t have run in the first place. It’s an embarrassment.”

jnewman@somdnews.com