- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

A new poll shows Democratic state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen has pushed ahead of Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella in the congressional race for Maryland's 8th District.
Mr. Van Hollen's three-point lead in the Potomac Survey Research Inc. poll is statistically insignificant, but his strong showing reflects the keen awareness in the heavily Democratic district that the race may be a pivotal battle for control of the House.
"Even though Connie Morella enjoys tremendous favorable ratings in the district, the poll indicates that many Democrats are looking to this race with a national eye toward control of the House," said Brian Edwards, vice president for public affairs at the polling firm.
The poll, sponsored by the Baltimore Sun and the Gazette newspapers, showed Mr. Van Hollen leading Mrs. Morella 43 percent to 40 percent, with 17 percent undecided and a 3.5 point margin of error. It was based on 803 interviews conducted between Sept. 25 and 28.
Mr. Van Hollen's press secretary, Afshin Mohamadi, said the candidate was encouraged by the poll results, but that the campaign was in no danger of becoming overconfident. Mr. Mohamadi said voters in the "progressive district" had signaled that they were ready for a change.
"We've seen that they are very concerned about the right-wing agenda that is currently in place in Congress. There's no doubt about that," he said.
Mrs. Morella's campaign manager, Tony Caligiuri, said an American Viewpoint poll they commissioned showed the Republican candidate leading by five points, with 48 percent of the vote to Mr. Van Hollen's 43 percent. The poll had a 4.9 point margin of error.
Mr. Van Hollen is now engaged in intensive fund raising. He was expected to attend a $250-per-ticket reception last night with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland. On Friday, he will campaign with Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri at the Leisure World retirement community.
Mr. Caligiuri said the Republican candidate had raised $1.7 million for her campaign while Mr. Van Hollen had spent most of the money he had raised.
The 8th District has a large contingent of liberal voters, despite having elected Mrs. Morella eight times. Self-described liberals, although they gave Mrs. Morella a high favorable rating, clearly preferred Mr. Van Hollen in the poll, giving him a 75 percent to 12 percent advantage over the Republican.
Redistricting has hurt Mrs. Morella, with the loss of a Republican area to the 6th District and a swath of Democratic voters from the 4th District added to her district.
The Potomac poll also showed Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend leading her Republican opponent, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, by 47 percent to 45 percent.
The poll also found that in the 2nd Congressional District, one of the closest races this year, former Rep. Helen Bentley and Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger are separated by just 1 percentage point, with 44 percent of those surveyed voting for Mrs. Bentley and 43 percent for Mr. Ruppersberger.

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