- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The night of the June 24 primary election brought for Charles Lollar the same bittersweet feeling well known to any unsuccessful candidate for public office.
In the waning moments of his defeat in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Lollar’s thoughts turned to the time he would suddenly have to spend with his wife and four daughters, who had to share him with campaign staffers and political supporters across two elections in the past four years.
“My attention really turned toward making some decisions with my family because they have sacrificed so long for me with me on the campaign trail so long,” Lollar said.
But his reprieve from the 2014 election did not last long, as local Republicans wasted little time following the primary figuring out how to get Charles County’s most noteworthy conservative back on the ballot as a candidate for county commissioner.
As it became clear on election night that Lollar was going to come up short in his bid to be the GOP nominee for Maryland governor — he finished a distant third behind nominee Larry Hogan and Harford County Executive David Craig — Charles County Republican Central Committee member Joe Crawford and associate member Chris Cherest bandied about the idea of Lollar, a Newburg resident, running for county commissioner.
The only problem, Cherest thought, was that Crawford’s 21-year-old son, J.T. Crawford, had won his own primary by virtue of being the only Republican to file as a candidate for commissioner in District 1, which includes Newburg.
But recent commitments had cropped up for J.T. Crawford at work and church that left the political newcomer unsure of his candidacy and whether he would be able to devote the time required to properly campaign.
When his father and Cherest approached him about dropping out of the race and nominating Lollar in his place, J.T. Crawford was “more than willing to step down,” Cherest said.
That left only one step to go — convincing Lollar to take on yet another political campaign. It wasn’t the easiest sell.
“My wife and I had just made our commitment to our babies, so you can imagine the conversations I had to have, first with my wife, and then with my girls,” Lollar said, who admitted that he was initially “taken aback” when Cherest and the Crawfords made their proposal. “Being local made a huge difference, and knowing how much the people needed us.”
With the new candidate on board, J.T. Crawford withdrew from the race, and the central committee nominated Lollar to face Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) in the Nov. 4 general election.
“I’m very grateful for the nomination and for all those who voted for me, but for personal reasons I was unable to put the full time and effort in, and when Charles didn’t make it in the governor’s race, he’s a great candidate, and I know he represents the residents of Charles County very well, and I look forward to what he’s going to do,” J.T. Crawford said.
A U.S. Marines reservist and former general manager with Cintas Corp. in Prince George’s County, Lollar now works as a budgeting and political consultant for government contractor Blackson Arrow.
As a candidate for commissioner — an office many local Republicans have long wanted him to seek — Lollar said he will bring a “nonpartisan message” of “bringing business back to the county.”
“If we start getting backed up in this partisan stuff again, and they want to build a narrative that blames Democrats, I’m not interested in that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a party issue. I think it’s a people issue.”
Lollar pledged to remain focused on economic issues, such as the local business environment; Indian Head Science and Technology Park in Bryans Road; potential base realignment benefits for Naval Support Facility, Indian Head; attracting satellite government offices; and excess taxes — Charles has the state’s highest property tax of any county and is beaten only by Baltimore city among jurisdictions in the state.
“We just have an enormous amount of residential growth, and our business growth is not keeping pace,” he said.
After running unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in 2010, and then governor this election, Lollar said he is excited to finally be able to run a campaign solely in his home county.
“That’s the best part of the deal, being able to be with the family here at home and the family here in our county,” he said. “We have so many friends and family here. The overwhelming response just in the last few days, how much people want good and sound leadership in their county, and we’re going to do our best to provide that.”
But just like in his campaigns for 5th Congressional District representative and Maryland governor, Lollar will face a distinct disadvantage in his race for District 1 commissioner.
Well aware that the county’s voter demographics — Democrats hold a 2-to-1 registration advantage over the GOP — present a steep challenge for any Republican, Lollar is nonetheless optimistic that his message will resonate will voters across the political spectrum.
“I understand the narrative. We’re going to be the one exception,” he said. “I want to work with Democrats. My parents are Democrats, for crying out loud.”