Maryland House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) launched an uphill bid Wednesday for the 5th Congressional District in which he will argue that long-time incumbent Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) is part of what’s wrong with Washington.
“We acknowledge it’s a tough district,” O’Donnell said in an interview Tuesday, “but people feel like America is on the wrong track, and people want to change that. ... Our campaign will be unlike any Congressman Hoyer has experienced in the past 20 years. This isn’t my first rodeo.”
O’Donnell, who has served in the House of Delegates since 1995, is one of the state’s highest-ranking Republicans and among the most credible candidates the party could field against Hoyer. But Hoyer, who serves as the U.S. House minority whip, has shown few signs of weakness back home in a district anchored in Southern Maryland. He defeated his 2010 Republican challenger, Charles Lollar, by nearly 30 percentage points.
On Wednesday morning, Maureen Beach, a spokeswoman for Hoyer’s campaign, said: “Mr. Hoyer remains focused on working with his constituents throughout the Fifth District on the issues that are most important to them.”
O’Donnell, who kicked off his campaign with the release of a video, argued that the environment has become better-suited to change and that he starts off better-known than recent Hoyer opponents. O’Donnell promised “a spirited, spirited campaign.”
In a preview of what’s to come, O’Donnell said Hoyer’s voting record is “nearly identical” to that of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but added: “Maryland’s 5th Congressional District is on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, not the western shore of the San Francisco Bay.”
So far, O’Donnell faces no opposition in a Republican Primary Election scheduled in April. O’Donnell said he plans to retain both his seat and leadership post in the House of Delegates while he runs. He’s not up for reelection until 2014.
Hoyer played a major role behind the scenes in shaping the state’s new congressional map, according to several sources with knowledge of the process, and one result was that his 5th district changed the least of any in the state.
The new 5th remains comfortably Democratic. Roughly 65 percent voted for President Obama in 2008 and 63 percent for O’Malley last year.
The district encompasses a fast-growing swath of predominantly African American communities in Charles County. The district’s percentage of whites, in fact, has fallen below 50 percent, and is expected to soon tip to majority-minority among those of voting age.
Most members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus supported the new congressional map, based in no small part on an understanding that the 5th could become Maryland’s third congressional seat held by an African American or other minority within the next 10 years.