Congressional candidates gearing up to face Hoyer
Some of the candidates challenging Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) in his bid for another term in Congress are not hopeful about their chances, but each has his own reasons for launching a campaign.
Pat Elder, the Green Party nominee from St. Mary’s County, said he decided to enter the race after Hoyer’s defense of Israeli military action in Gaza. Elder said he is seeking to draw attention to a number of issues, including campaign finance reform, shutting down the coal-fired plants at Morgantown and Chalk Point, which account for “47 percent of the coal being burned in the state,” “educating the public on the Navy’s disregard of the environment,” cutting “bloated military budgets,” raising taxes on the wealthy and providing Medicare for all.
These “issues would never be discussed if you didn’t have a third-party” candidate, Elder said.
Although he has never run for office, Elder is not a stranger to politics. He founded the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and prepared two legislative bills that were passed into law in 2009 and 2010, one requiring parental consent before public school students are given the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, and the other prohibiting military recruiters from obtaining personal student information unless their parent gives explicit consent to do so — the first bill of its kind in the country, Elder said.
He has also worked as an organizer for mass protests in Washington, with the DC Antiwar Network, United for Peace and Justice and Code Pink Women for
Although Elder does not expect to win, he said “the Greens are growing.”
“The thing is, we have Trump, so people are scared to death that if you vote Green, you’re going to help Trump and the Republicans get elected,” he said. “Of course, there’s truth to that, but in my case, [Hoyer’s] got it sewn up.”
Elder has been perhaps the most outspoken opponent of Hoyer, with a page on his campaign website criticizing Hoyer’s top donors, which include defense companies Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, health insurance providers such as Blue Cross/ Blue Shield and MedStar Health, pharmaceutical manufacturers like Bayer AG, and Exelon, the owner of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. Elder notes on his website that Hoyer has raised a total of $6 million in this election cycle. For his part, Hoyer said he agrees; there is too much money in politics.
Elder is “right. We need to get a handle on it,” Hoyer said, adding that he uses his donations to “try to help” other Democratic candidates vying for seats in Congress.
Hoyer co-sponsored the Government by the People Act, designed to incentivize small donations for campaigns, and touted the Disclose Act during a speech given at Georgetown University, a bill that would require public dis- closure of super PAC donors and could be pushed forward in the next legislative session.
“If he wanted to, [Hoyer] could drown me with the amount of money he takes in,” Jacob Pulcher, the Libertarian candidate to represent the fifth district, said.
An Anne Arundel County resident, Pulcher said he is running because he’s “fed up with the system in general.”
Pulcher was spurred to throw his hat in the race after he was fined $1,000 for owning three chickens, which Anne Arundel representatives said violated county zoning regulations. Although Pulcher beat the fine, he lost his chickens, even after reaching out to “several different lawmakers,” he said.
Pulcher’s main goals, if elected, would be to “limit government interference in the average taxpaying citizen’s life,” institute term limits, end the “pointless” war on drugs, reduce foreign engagement in war, and pursue campaign finance reform, he said.
“If we have a system where the average citizen can’t run for office and win, we have a broken system,” Pulcher said.
But, he added, “The odds are not good.”
Hoyer “has been in the same office for nearly 40 years. As long as I’ve been alive, he’s been my congressman in this district,” Pulcher said.
“I needed to start somewhere,” he continued. “I needed the experience and the training … you don’t feel so powerless if you’re at least trying.”
In response to criticism of his length of time in office, Hoyer said that he serves two-year term limits and feels privileged that constituents have chosen him as their representative “19 times.”
Hoyer, who lives in Mechanicsville, added that he is running for re-election because “I love working for the people of Southern Maryland, and I think I do it well.”
If re-elected, Hoyer said he is committed to seeing the addition of a third building at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in Hollywood, and continuing efforts to bring the FBI building to Prince George’s County. He cites his involvement in Naval Air Station Patuxent River during multiple base realignments and closures as one of his major local accomplishments.
On a national scale, Hoyer said he, along with his Democrat colleagues, are “trying to achieve a Congress that works,” outside of a “culture of corruption,” to “make Congress work across the aisle.” Hoyer also said he wants to ensure citizens’ access to affordable health care.
William Devine III, the Republican nominee for Congress who easily beat his opponent Johnny Rice in the primary, is more confident about his chances of winning than his Green and Libertarian counterparts.
“I have a very, very slight chance,” Devine said, adding that he feels positive about his chances to win Calvert, St. Mary’s and Anne Arundel counties. The district also includes Charles County and a portion of Prince George’s County.
Devine, a Prince George’s County resident, has previously served on the Capitol Heights City Council and Prince George’s County Council. If elected, Devine would focus on combatting the opioid epidemic, expanding access to mental heath services, pursue more funding of public schools and school safety initiatives through the use of casino revenue.
Helping those struggling with mental health is a public safety issue, Devine said. When “mental health is being overlooked,” those struggling will “find a way to act out,” with or without guns, he said.
Noting that he is “progun, pro-NRA,” Devine wants to see “better background checks” and wants to address “loopholes” that allow residents to purchase firearms at gun shows without adequate background checks, he said.
“Even though the economy is doing well,” Devine said he wants to bring more jobs and provide tax incentives to bring in new businesses to District 5, he said.
Initially intending to run for governor, Devine decided to make a bid for Congress close to the “last minute,” he said.
If he doesn’t win, Devine said “on Nov. 7, I’m going back into the election board and signing back up” to run again.
Unlike his opponents, Devine is not a proponent of term limits.
“You’re not supposed to stay in office until you die,” Devine said. “I’m not really for term limits, but at a certain point it’s too much.”
Running as an independent in the race against Hoyer, Johnny Rice of Capitol Heights is a self-professed street evangelist who boasts prior missionary work around the world and is involved in prayer ministries around Washington. He told The Calvert Recorder in 2017 he was running as a social conservative but fiscal liberal, calling the war on drugs “terrible policy” but advocating for free government health care. Rice believes his health care goals could be achieved by slashing defense spending by half and pulling America’s involvement out of the Middle East.
“I want to lift up prayer and Christian values” in policies, Rice said. He advocates for a transgender military ban and for government to fund adoptions instead of Planned Parenthood.