Charles Lollar, a businessman and Marine Corps Reserve officer from Charles County, launched his bid for the Republican nomination for governor of Maryland on Tuesday with an appeal to Democrats and independents to support a campaign that he pledged will not focus on partisan politics.
“This is not an election about who’s Republican and who’s Democrat,” Lollar said at a stop in Silver Spring on the opening day of a statewide bus tour. “At some point we’ve got to grow beyond that.
Lollar touted some traditionally Republican issues, including lowering taxes and expanding school choice. But speaking to a few dozen people in Veterans Plaza, he also said his party needs to take a different approach to winning elections in heavily Democratic Maryland — and offered himself as “new leadership.”
“Let me be clear,” Lollar said. “The enemy is not political parties. The enemy is not genders, nor is the enemy skin color. The enemy is any policy, any activity, anything stated or legislated that takes freedom away from me, you, our children and our grandchildren.”
With his bus tour, which is scheduled to end Friday in Annapolis, Lollar joins a competitive GOP primary to replace Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in a state where only one Republican — Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. — has been elected governor in a generation.
Other Republicans who have entered the 2014 race include Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Del. Ronald A. George (Anne Arundel). Larry Hogan, who leads the group Change Maryland and was Ehrlich’s secretary of appointments, and Michael S. Steele, Ehrlich’s lieutenant governor and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, are considering entering the primary.
Other stops on the first day of Lollar’s tour included St. Mary’s, Charles and Prince George’s counties. He is scheduled to start Wednesday in the Baltimore region before heading to Howard and Frederick counties.
Although he has received high marks as an inspirational speaker, Lollar, 42, has never won elected office in Maryland. He ran for Congress in 2010, failing in an uphill attempt to unseat Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House Democratic whip.
Lollar has also served as chairman of a political action committee that sought to help elect candidates friendly to small business and conservative social values.
He said in an interview Tuesday that he is not taking the Republican primary in June for granted. But he said he thinks GOP voters will appreciate a candidate who can reach out to Democrats as well — and increase the party’s odds of winning in November.
“It’s insanity when you do the same thing and expect something different,” he said.