Straw poll goes to Van Hollen

Can­di­date for Mikul­ski’s Se­nate seat is ‘dy­namic,’ PAC pres­i­dent says

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH KOH el­iz­a­beth.koh@wash­post.com

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.”

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