A grin etched into his face, Brad Jewitt mechanically waved one hand, then the other, smiling weakly at the evening traffic as he stood on the side of Route 4 south.
"This is sweat equity," he said, holding his lips apart in a toothy grin. "We've got to get the word out."
His seven-person team lined the highway Wednesday afternoon near the Route 260 exit. Mostly retirees and students, they waved red-white-and-blue "Brad Jewitt" signs and jerked their arms up and down. Finally, "BEEEEEeeeep! Beeeep!!" blew a horn from a passing truck.
Jewitt, the Republican candidate in the 5th Congressional District, is trying to spread his name across Southern Maryland. His strategies for accomplishing that include sign waving and fundraisers.
His main selling point: He isn't Steny Hoyer.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) has represented the district for more than two decades. During that time he has risen through the U.S. House of Representatives leadership to become minority whip and attracted criticism from Republicans who assert he is more liberal than most of his constituents.
"People in Southern Maryland are begging for a reason not to vote for Hoyer," Jewitt said in a recent interview as he sat with folded arms and one leg hooked over the other in the makeshift campaign headquarters of his Greenbelt home.
Since October, Jewitt has been running a grass-roots campaign against Hoyer. He won the GOP nomination in the March primary.
The 34-year-old newlywed -- his front door is bannered with "Just Married" signs -- says he is more representative of Southern Maryland voters: He's Republican, he's a former Marine, and he's not Steny Hoyer.
"Hoyer has become a national Democrat," Jewitt said in his basement office, where Fox News was running on a muted television. "He has lost objectivity because he has to toe the party line."
Jewitt has resigned from his federal job in facilities management for the Marine Corps to campaign full time against Hoyer. Jewitt said his opponent is using fear as a campaign tactic. Hoyer has convinced Southern Maryland voters that he alone can protect the area's Navy bases -- Patuxent River Naval Air Station and Indian Head -- from closure by the Pentagon, Jewitt said.
"It's disheartening to me to see the Hoyer campaign tactic of instilling fear," said Jewitt, who was elected mayor of Berwyn Heights in 2002 and served until he was recalled to active duty in the Marines for eight months last year.
In his campaign for Congress, Jewitt has raised $85,000, surpassing the amount raised by the last two 5th District Republican candidates. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and his staff members have helped Jewitt raise funds -- the governor hosted a fundraiser July 9 in Dunkirk.
Jewitt promises that he will support the bases, but he also says backing from the local community is more important to the efforts to protect them.
"The bases are vital, and you have to be a staunch supporter," Jewitt said. "That won't be lost by electing Brad Jewitt."
He notes his military ties -- 15 years of service in the Marines.
In 1989, he enlisted as a rifleman in the Marine Corps Reserve while still a student at York College in Pennsylvania. He hadn't finished school when his infantry reserve unit was activated in 1991 for Operation Desert Shield. Jewitt was not deployed to the Middle East but served stateside and trained for desert warfare in California.
After he finished college, he traveled to Japan as a financial management officer for the Marines and then went to Norfolk, Va., where he was the dispersing operator and then the communications officer for the tidewater region. In 1998, he was selected to command a 400-person unit.
This military history, he said, has given him insight into the prominence and importance of Southern Maryland's Navy bases.
"I've walked a mile in those shoes," he said.
He then served as comptroller for Marine Corps headquarters, where he was responsible for a $250 million administrative budget.
When he moved to Berwyn Heights in 2001, he quickly advanced from president of the recreation council to City Council and eventually to mayor in May 2002, a post he gave up when he was recalled to duty for Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I was one of the first elected officials in the country to get activated," he said. That attracted the attention of CNN and the Washington television network affiliates, all of which did stories about him.
"Now I have some notoriety," Jewitt said. "I had a human interest story."
He is trying to use that name recognition to benefit his run for Congress. He has set up a Web site featuring his positions on issues at www.jewitt2004.com.
The cornerstone of his platform, he said, is small business.
"There are a number of bills that pass in the legislature that lose the focus of how they will impact small business," he said. He wants to break down some of the regulatory restrictions -- such as labor regulations and the inheritance tax -- that he says inhibit small businesses.
He said the time has come for small business to flourish in Southern Maryland, where the local labor pool depends heavily on Navy-related or federal jobs. If more residents were employed in the area, Jewitt said, fewer of them would commute to Washington, thus easing the heavy traffic flow of area highways.
Jewitt also supports more federal funding for education, more public transportation options and a greater focus on creating emergency evacuation routes in Southern Maryland. He supports President Bush and the U.S. troops in Iraq, he said.
In 2001, Jewitt didn't have politics on his mind when he finally settled in Greenbelt -- he was thinking of his family. Around his makeshift campaign office, children's toys and a bright red futon are traces of the family life that carries on behind Jewitt's campaign rhetoric.
He and his wife, Cheryl, settled in Greenbelt to be with his son Hunter, 6, from a previous marriage.
"I wanted to be in a stable position," Jewitt said, "to take care of him."