Straw poll goes to Van Hollen
Candidate for Mikulski’s Senate seat is ‘dynamic,’ PAC president says
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) won Maryland’s first rural straw poll by an overwhelming margin Saturday, in what is becoming an increasingly contentious fight for the Democratic nomination to fill retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski’s seat.
The poll, part of the state’s first rural Democratic summit, was sponsored by the Western Maryland Democratic PAC to unite rural areas with similar concerns.
Van Hollen, who is competing against Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.), won the contest with 80 percent of the 123 votes cast. Edwards received 20 percent. No write-in votes were submitted.
“This campaign is about delivering for working families here in Maryland, and I’ll never stop fighting to make sure that everyone in this state has a fair shot at a good education, a high-wage job and a secure retirement,” Van Hollen said in a statement.
“We didn’t view this as a knock-down, drag-out contest,” Edwards spokesman Benjamin Gerdes said. “Democrats from around the state were getting together, and Donna wanted to come and talk about her values and share her vision for the state.”
Van Hollen’s 8th Congressional District includes parts of Frederick and Carroll counties, which were among the areas represented by the straw poll voters. Attendees hailed from Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland, which have hosted similar summits.
Rural areas “haven’t had much of a voice in the past,” said Russ Currey, president of the Western Maryland Democratic PAC. “We’re trying to create an alliance so we have a greater voice in the state party.”
Edwards and Van Hollen have grappled for a series of endorsements, most recently splitting support from Teamsters unions Wednesday. Van Hollen has been endorsed by a handful of high-profile politicians, including Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
Edwards, of Prince George’s County, has argued that her record is more progressive and that she better identifies with the needs of working families. Liberal and women’s groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation and Democracy for America — which sought to draft her for the race — have lined up to support her.
Currey highlighted job creation as one of the central issues at Saturday’s summit and praised Van Hollen’s work.
Van Hollen “is so much more experienced,” Currey said. “I thought it was a natural win. He’s dynamic.”