- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2005

BALTIMORE — He is known as “Dr. Baltimore.” She’s the “Little Giant.”

Together, they are turning what is normally a quiet race for a suburban congressional seat into one of the most entertaining of the coming campaign season.

Peter Beilenson, who stepped down as Baltimore’s health commissioner to run for the seat, is a doctor. Paula Hollinger, one of the most powerful women in the state legislature, is a former nurse.

Both are Democrats, both Jewish, seeking election in November 2006 in the 3rd District, a traditionally Jewish area.

That is where the similarities end.

Mrs. Hollinger is 4 feet 9 inches tall. Mr. Beilenson is 6 feet 3 inches tall. She has worked for 26 years in the legislature. He has never held an elected office. She is running on her legislative record. He said his real-world experience is his biggest asset.

Mrs. Hollinger doesn’t like to play up the primary race between the two. “I have a record. I don’t feel I’m running against anybody,” she said.

The former health commissioner is also reluctant to bash his opponent. But when it comes to President Bush, Mr. Beilenson, the son of a former congressman from California, shows he has a little Hollywood in him. He points with exasperation at administration policies ranging from fighting terrorism to health care, and promises to speak out on Capitol Hill.

“That’s one of the things I want to do, is say, ‘Excuse me, press conference, can you guys please highlight this?’ It’s unbelievable, and [Mr. Bush] gets away with this stuff anyway,” Mr. Beilenson said.

Mrs. Hollinger said she wants to keep helping those she has helped for a quarter-century.

“I’ve had people stopping me on the street saying, ‘I have to work on your campaign,’” she said. “I know I’ve touched a lot of people.”

The pending retirement of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes has set off a chain reaction that has both eyeing the 3rd District seat that Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin is vacating to seek Mr. Sarbanes’ office.

Delegate Neil Quinter, Howard County Democrat, has announced that he will run for Mr. Cardin’s seat, and in July, Anne Arundel County Council member Bill D. Burlison, a former five-term congressman from southeastern Missouri, announced his candidacy.

However, Mrs. Hollinger, 64, and Mr. Beilenson, 45, have captured the most attention, said Patrick Gonzales, president of Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, an Annapolis-based polling firm.

The winner of the September 2006 Democratic primary is not a “slam dunk” for the November general election, Mr. Gonzales said.

Redistricting has changed the face of the district, which now encompasses portions of the city of Baltimore and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard.

Mrs. Hollinger’s current district includes Northwest Baltimore and central Baltimore County.

“The district is weird,” Mr. Gonzales said. “Most residents live in Anne Arundel County, but in a Democratic primary most of the votes come out of Baltimore County.”

The majority of 3rd District voters are registered with the Democratic Party, but “my sense is a lot of these Democrats are willing to vote for Republicans,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Mrs. Hollinger expects to raise between $1.5 million and $2 million for the campaign. Mr. Beilenson said he expects to raise $1.1 million. Mr. Cardin raised $940,148 in the 2003-04 election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The diminutive Mrs. Hollinger said the issues most important to her — health care, stem-cell research, education and the environment — can be addressed more effectively on the federal level. The lanky Mr. Beilenson, never shy to speak out about the city’s health care challenges, also wants to speak from a bigger stage.

Mr. Beilenson’s campaign is based on providing safety, security and results for voters in five areas: health care, the economy, homeland security, childhood and old age.

Mr. Beilenson is quick to note that he expanded the definition of public health during his 13 years as Baltimore health commissioner, dealing with issues such as homeland security, juvenile violence, drug abuse and other issues.

“No one has this kind of experience in public health in Congress, not one person. So I think it’s a unique perspective,” said Mr. Beilenson, who ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 1990 and the City Council in 1991.

Mr. Beilenson said he disagrees with much of what is happening in Washington, particularly “rampant partisanship and vitriol,” and plans to use the office to speak out for the issues in which he believes, much as he did as health commissioner.

“Seriously, that’s what I did. I used the TV and media to get out the message and help, and I think you want to do the same thing here,” Mr. Beilenson said.

Mrs. Hollinger, who has a lengthy record of working with both parties, said she wants to bring her bipartisan approach to Congress.

She joined the House in 1979 and moved in 1987 to the state Senate, where she has been the chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee since 2003 and Senate chairman for the Joint Committee on Health Care Delivery and Financing since 1995.

She also has numerous endorsements lined up, with support from 19 state legislators, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat.

“We talk across the aisle,” she said of her relationship with Republicans in Annapolis. “I don’t work the way they do in Washington.”

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