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Opposed to the Iraq Invasion, Van Hollen Nevertheless Finds Himself With an Antiwar Challenger

By Tim Craig, Ann E. Marimow and John Wagner
Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a critic of President Bush 's decision to invade Iraq, is facing an opponent in this year's Democratic primary who says the congressman is merely paying lip service to the antiwar movement.

Van Hollen has consistently called the war a mistake. Last year, he supported an amendment calling on Bush to develop a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq.

But because Van Hollen has voted to fund the war, Deborah A. Vollmer has decided to run against him.

"He continues to be an enabler to the Bush administration," said Vollmer, a Democratic activist who lives in Chevy Chase. "I just think it is time for members of Congress to develop some spine and vote against funding for the war."

Van Hollen did not return calls seeking comment. Because the incumbent remains popular, Vollmer will probably be little more than an annoyance as Van Hollen seeks a third term.

But Vollmer's candidacy could serve as a barometer of how far Democratic voters want Congress to go to stop the war. It also underscores a national trend in which Democrats are being forced to justify their stance on the war.

Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), both of whom voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq, are facing aggressive primary challenges from antiwar Democrats.

Van Hollen, who represents parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, has opposed the war since its beginning. But Vollmer said he should be doing more to put a stop to it.

Van Hollen, Vollmer noted, has refused to join the "Out of Iraq Caucus," a group of 72 House members who want an immediate withdrawal of troops, and he voted in March to allocate an additional $68 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Van Hollen has also fielded questions in recent weeks from constituents over his acceptance of campaign contributions from defense contractors.

Vollmer isn't a newcomer to politics. Living in California in 1992 and 1996, she was the Democratic nominee against U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas (R). After moving to Maryland, she was an unsuccessful candidate in Democratic House primaries in 1998, 2000 and 2002, when Van Hollen was first elected.

Ehrlich Camp Urges Stations to Pull Ad

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. 's reelection team is demanding that Baltimore television stations stop airing a new advertisement produced by one of the Democrats seeking to replace him, claiming the content is "false and defamatory."

In the 15-second spot, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan takes aim at the crime records of his Democratic primary rival, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley , and Ehrlich, the Republican incumbent. Speaking of Ehrlich, Duncan says, "This guy thinks we need more assault weapons on the street. Like that's gonna help us."


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