Trying to win his 13th term as Southern Maryland's congressman, U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer crisscrossed the 5th District in typical whirlwind fashion last week, on one day stopping for events in White Plains, Bowie and College Park before heading back to Washington.

But the next day, Hoyer (D) hopped on a plane for Philadelphia in his bid to win a different contest -- the battle for control of the House of Representatives.

Hoyer stumped for three Pennsylvania Democrats vying for congressional seats. Each race there, Hoyer said, will be essential for Democrats' hopes of gaining 13 seats and retaking control of Congress.

Republicans have been in the majority since the 1994 elections.

Hoyer has hit the hustings for colleagues across the country many times in the past, but he said last week that his role has grown since he became minority whip in January 2003.

"I think we can do it," he said. "We have 30 to 40 very credible candidates this year."

Some political pundits would disagree. But Hoyer has plunged headlong into the task.

Since January, he has visited seven states -- from Missouri to Florida to South Dakota -- to campaign for 11 candidates in tight races.

According to federal campaign fund disclosures, he has doled out more than $200,000 this year to congressional candidates from his political action committee, Ameripac: the Fund for a Greater America.

With five months to go before the election, he is on pace to eclipse the $392,000 that he contributed in the 2002 election cycle.

Most of his trips have been to swing states, where he holds issue news conferences with local candidates and engages in the press-the-flesh politicking that Southern Marylanders know well.

Hoyer's schedule last week in Pennsylvania had him in Whitehall, where at 4 p.m. Wednesday he was to appear at a pharmacy to highlight the rising costs of prescription drugs with Joe Driscoll, a real estate developer competing for an open seat in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Then at 5:30 p.m., Hoyer was hosting a fundraiser at a restaurant in Bethlehem, Pa. for Driscoll and two other Democratic candidates -- Allyson Schwartz, who is vying for an open seat in suburban Philadelphia, and Lois Murphy, who is trying to unseat a freshman representative.

Hoyer "is definitely a draw," said David Nassar, a spokesman for Driscoll.

In a district that went for Al Gore by 3,000 votes in the 2000 presidential election, an endorsement from Hoyer, a self-described centrist, provides credibility for a candidate looking to attract independents and moderate Republicans, Nassar said.

"This district is filled with moderates," Nassar said. "People are going to respond very well to [Hoyer's] voice."

Identity-Theft Bill Vetoed

One of the legislative measures Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) vetoed last week was a bill sponsored by Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's) that was intended to offer consumers new protection from identity theft.

Dyson's legislation, known as Senate Bill 117, would have limited dissemination of Social Security numbers. The measure passed the General Assembly unanimously and received the support of many business organizations as well as consumer groups.

Although Ehrlich praised the privacy goals of the legislation, he singled out "one section of the bill" in his veto message that "makes it more difficult for consumers to transact businesses with their insurers."

The governor said the measure would have allowed an insurer to include an individual's Social Security number in documents only if they were sent by regular mail. That would have interfered with normal procedures in the insurance industry, Ehrlich said.

"Insurers uniformly use e-mail and facsimile transmissions to transact business with consumers at their request and to prohibit this practice would cause undue hardship on Maryland consumers," the veto message said.

Two consumer groups took issue with that version of events.

Saying that identity theft has reached epidemic proportions, the groups said in a joint statement that the Dyson bill would have decreased one common method in such crimes.

"Obtaining a person's Social Security number is the key to stealing their identity," said Cheryl Hystad, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

In the same statement reacting to the veto, Gigi Kellett of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group said the Dyson legislation would have been "an important step toward curbing the tide of identity theft."

The two groups rejected the governor's concerns about common business practices.

The Maryland bill was modeled on legislation that took effect in California in 2002, they said, noting that many national companies already had changed their practices nation-wide because of the California law.

In their statement, the groups said Dyson's bill had received wide support from the Maryland business community, including the Maryland Bankers Association, the Maryland Retailers Association, the Mid-Atlantic Financial Services Association, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and the Consumer Data Industry Association.

"We are disappointed that the governor would choose to veto a strong consumer protection measure which had wide support from consumers and businesses and was unanimously supported by members of the General Assembly," Hystad said in the joint statement.

On the Leading Edge

Southern Maryland businesses and executives will be honored June 16 during the fourth annual Leading Edge Awards ceremony.

The event is hosted by the College of Southern Maryland, the college's Entrepreneur and Leadership Center, the Patuxent Partnership, the Technology Council in Calvert and Charles counties and the Small Business Development Center for the Southern Region of Maryland.

"We have an exceptional slate of winners this year," Alan Kutz, vice president of the Corporate and Community Training Institute at the College of Southern Maryland, said in a statement announcing the awards event. "These companies and executives exemplify the excellence of Southern Maryland's business community."

This year's Entrepreneur and Leadership Center CEO of the Year is Greg Billups of Waldorf-based Systems, Maintenance & Technology Inc. Billups started the company in 1985 and has overseen its growth to 50 employees with offices in North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia. The firm is a technology services company that specializes in applying technology innovations to aircraft and computer maintenance environments.

The Calvert County Technology Council has selected Batching Systems Inc. as the 2004 Calvert County Technology Company of the Year. BSI, in the Calvert Industrial Park, offers state-of-the-art production equipment for counting, weighing, bagging and boxing parts, products or pieces. BSI's machines are used by numerous companies world-wide, including Milton Bradley, Delta Faucet, Russell Stover and Frito-Lay.

Maredith Management LLC will receive the Charles County Technology Council's award for Technology Company of the Year. Maredith, owned by Candice Quinn Kelly, is a property management firm in Waldorf. In her three years leading the company, Kelly has taken her office from electric typewriters and outdated computers to state-of-the-art technologies.

The Patuxent Partnership has selected DynCorp of Lexington Park as its 2004 Member Firm of the Year. DynCorp is one of the major defense contractors in Southern Maryland.

Recipient of CSM's Learning Organization of the Year award is DCS Corp. of Lexington Park, in recognition of the firm's efforts to provide a range of learning opportunities to its employees.

The 2003 Small Business of the Year Award will be presented to Chesapeake Plastics Manufacturing of Ship Point Business Park in Lusby. The company, purchased by Steve Moore and Mark McGrath less than a year ago, now has 11 employees working in plastic injection-molding manufacturing for the Defense Department. It also makes products for the maritime, construction, hardware, computer, flooring and after-market auto industries.

For the first time this year, the Southern Maryland Economic Development Association (SMEDA) will present two Economic Leadership awards to Naval Air Systems Command at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and to Naval District Washington, for the Indian Head Surface Warfare Center. SMEDA is an alliance among the Southern Maryland departments of economic development and affiliated economic development commissions with a common goal of strengthening the area's economy.

The awards will be presented during a banquet beginning at 6 p.m. at the Jaycee Community Center in Waldorf. Ticket information is available by calling 301-934-7580, 301-870-3008 or 301-884-8131, Ext. 7580.