State Del. Thomas E. Hutchins, a Charles County Republican, filed papers in Annapolis this week officially making him a candidate for the House of Representatives from the 5th Congressional District that encompasses all of Southern Maryland.

Hutchins, 54, a retired Maryland state trooper from Port Tobacco, is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who was elected to a 10th term last year with 66 percent of the vote.

Currently in his second term in the Maryland House of Delegates, Hutchins emerged from the November 1998 elections as the top vote-getter among Charles County candidates for state delegate.

In addition to Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties, the 5th District includes southern portions of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. It is home to several federal high-technology installations, including the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County.

The 5th District, which was once contained in Prince George's County, was redrawn following the 1990 Census. In the 1994 election, the first after the 5th District included Southern Maryland, Hoyer was reelected despite trailing in all three counties. In 1996 and 1998, he won in every county.

Hutchins's background in law enforcement and his military service--including a tour during the Vietnam War--could earn him favor with voters who have backed Hoyer in part because of his support for defense spending and funding for more police officers. Hutchins was named Maryland Trooper of the Year in 1976 and 1977.

In the House of Delegates, Hutchins is a member of the Judiciary Committee and its Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. He is also a member of the Governor's Task Force on Childproof Guns.

Hutchins was raised in Calvert County. He and his wife, Jackie Speelman, have two children and one grandchild.