- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

Christopher Van Hollen's former Democratic rivals yesterday closed ranks behind the state senator in his bid to unseat Rep. Constance A. Morella in November.
"I'm excited he will be one of the votes that puts Congressman [Richard A.] Gephardt in the leadership of the House," state Delegate Mark K. Shriver said during a press conference in Chillum yesterday.
Ira Shapiro and Deborah Vollmer joined Mr. Shriver in endorsing Mr. Van Hollen, who bested them in Tuesday's Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District.
The contest for Mrs. Morella's seat has national implications. Republicans hold a six-seat majority in the House of Representatives. If Democrats regain control of the chamber they lost in 1994, Mr. Gephardt of Missouri, the current House minority leader, would likely become House speaker.
State Democrats redrew the boundaries of the 8th District after the census to improve their chances of defeating Mrs. Morella, a liberal Republican who has represented the liberal-leaning district since 1987.
During an interview on WJLA-TV (Channel 7) yesterday, Mrs. Morella said she expects a "very difficult" campaign. Democrats are targeting her because she narrowly defeated a little-known candidate in 2000, winning only 52 percent of the vote.
Mr. Shriver, who had been considered the favorite going into the primary race, yesterday pledged to help Mr. Van Hollen in any way he could. He presented Mr. Van Hollen with a $1,000 check.
Mr. Shriver a nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and cousin of Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said he would take an active "financial" and "public policy" role in the Van Hollen campaign. He pledged to tap into his network of family contacts to assist Mr. Van Hollen's victory.
The campaign against Mrs. Morella is expected to be costly. At the end of the primary, Mr. Van Hollen had about $100,000, while Mrs. Morella has nearly $1.7 million.
"It's absolutely true that we have to replenish our resources," Mr. Van Hollen said after accepting Mr. Shriver's check and endorsement.
Mr. Van Hollen and others spoke repeatedly about the need to remove Mrs. Morella because of her Republican Party loyalties.
"George Bush, together with the Republican leadership and [House Majority Whip] Tom DeLay, have an agenda that is out of touch with this district," Mr. Van Hollen said.
"Connie Morella is a wonderful person," Mr. Shapiro said. "This isn't personal, it's about the needs of the district. We need to take back this seat. National Democrats are counting on us."
"I take it personally," Mrs. Morella told The Washington Times in June. "Have I done anything to hurt anyone? No. Have I worked with you in the state? Yes.
"I found it very surprising. [The Democrats] are backroom bullies who did this because they could not do it at the ballot box. They hoped to get me to retire, but they energized me."
Mr. Van Hollen pledged to run an issues-oriented campaign and said he can win because he has served in the legislature experience past Democratic nominees have lacked.


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