Brad Jewitt has ruined three pairs of shoes since June.
The Maryland 5th Congressional District candidate said his soles simply dissolved under the pressure of 18-hour days spent walking the region with his leave-no-door-unknocked approach to campaigning.
Republican Brad Jewitt tries to connect with voters in Maryland's 5th Congressional District. He's also going door to door seeking votes.
(James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
Born: Oct. 31, 1969; Media, Pa.
Education: BS, York College of Pennsylvania, 1992; MS, Troy State University, 1996.
Career: Major, U.S. Marine Forces Reserve; civilian head of facilities management at Marine headquarters; mayor of Berwyn Heights.
Residence: Berwyn Heights.
Family: Married; one son from a previous marriage.
Campaign theme: "A New Voice. A New Energy."
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"You've got to work your butt off if you're a Republican in this district," said Jewitt, the former mayor of Berwyn Heights, a Prince George's town of 3,000 people.
It's not just that 55 percent of the district's registered voters are Democrats. Jewett needs every scrap of shoe leather he can muster to run against Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the popular, 12-term incumbent who is also the second-ranking Democrat in the House.
Jewett said district residents' views are more compatible with his than with those of his opponent.
"Hoyer has become a national Democrat who is too liberal for this district," said Jewitt, 34.
Jewitt describes himself as a social moderate, and he supports abortion rights and civil unions for same-sex couples. But he criticizes Hoyer for his opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and his vote against a bill that would have outlawed a measure that opponents call "partial birth" abortion.
Republicans hope the affable Marine will appeal to voters across party lines.
"If Brad could meet enough voters one-on-one, he would win this election," said Audrey E. Scott, a former Republican Prince George's County Council member who now works in the Ehrlich administration. "The question is: Has he been able to get his message out to enough people?"
Jewitt has certainly tried. Last year, he quit his job as an administrator at Marine headquarters to campaign full time. He has also spent $24,000 of his own money. Both moves have meant a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Jewitt and his wife, Cheryl, who live in a modest Berwyn Heights home that doubles as campaign headquarters.
Jewitt said the sacrifices have paid off. The campaign has raised $128,000, not enough for television spots, but more than the combined total of Hoyer's two previous Republican challengers in the district, which encompasses outer Prince George's County, southern Anne Arundel County and all of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.
Hoyer has raised $1.6 million, according to the latest federal filings. But Jewitt said he is not worried about Hoyer's advantages in fundraising and name recognition. He pointed to the 2002 race, in which Republican Joseph T. Crawford received 30.5 percent of the vote despite raising less than $5,000.
"I believe the base vote for a Republican is in the neighborhood of 35 percent," Jewitt said, "even if you have almost no campaign."
Jewitt got involved in politics after he moved to Berwyn Heights from Arlington County in July 2001. His management background attracted several members of the Town Council, and by September he was the president of the town's Parks and Recreation Council. When a vacancy opened on the Town Council in February 2002, he applied for appointment to the seat.