Republican Charles R. Floyd said it isn't easy running for Congress in the heavily Democratic 8th District, in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.
The retired military officer and State Department employee said he has been shouted down while handing out literature at Metro stops. Doors have slammed in his face.
When he stands waving his campaign signs along roadways, he said, "if I don't get three middle fingers in the first half-hour, I know I am not in Montgomery County."
Despite the odds he faces in a district that includes half of Montgomery and a small part of Prince George's County, Floyd has invested more than $200,000 of his own money to challenge first-term Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D).
The incumbent, he said, is too liberal and too timid in the fight against terrorism.
"This guy is bad news for Maryland," Floyd said. "He's been ineffective, and it's time to give him the pink slip."
Floyd is trying to convince voters that his election would increase the district's clout in the Republican-led House of Representatives.
His sales pitch is a sort of mirror image of Van Hollen's message in 2002. Van Hollen defeated eight-term incumbent Constance Morella by arguing that he would help the Democrats reclaim the House. The GOP easily retained control that year.
But Morella was a moderate who tried to distance herself from the conservative wing of the party during her campaigns. By contrast, Floyd has closely aligned himself with President Bush, even though polls show the president is running poorly in the 8th District.
"I feel President Bush is right on target on national security," Floyd said. "He has been a good leader."
Floyd attended a rally sponsored by veterans affiliated with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group has aired controversial ads that seek to undermine Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry's military record.
Pictures of Bush and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) line the walls of Floyd's campaign office in Bethesda. A placard titled "Six Conservative Principles" -- less government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, individual freedom, strong families, national defense -- is also displayed prominently.
Earlier this year, former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and President Reagan's former attorney general, Edwin Meese, headlined Floyd fundraisers.
In campaign commercials, Floyd has tried to soften his image by airing a photo of him and Secretary of State Colin Powell, his former boss. "I am a social moderate and fiscal conservative like Morella," Floyd said.
His platform includes lower taxes, increased funding for national security and welfare and tort reform. On social issues, he said he is personally opposed to abortion, but does not think Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned. He also has endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Floyd, who was a Democrat until he switched parties in 1992, said his political views are shaped by his upbringing and career.
Growing up on a 500-acre farm on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Floyd was driving a tractor before he turned 7. He later attended the University of Richmond, graduating with a science degree in 1972.
The same year, Floyd joined the Army, eventually rising to the rank of major during a 20-year career that took him to more than a dozen countries.
From 1986 to 1987, Floyd served in a United Nations peacekeeping force in Israel. He said he volunteered because he has "such a high esteem for the Israeli army."
When he retired from the service in 1992, Floyd moved to Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore. He bought a franchise for Line-X, a company that applies spray-on bed liners on trucks, and become active in GOP politics.
In 1998, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Maryland House of Delegates. During that campaign, his literature featured a picture of him and his Boston terrier under the slogan, "Always be the person your dog thinks you are."
"I learned from that campaign, you can't manage it yourself," Floyd said.
Floyd's reputation on the Eastern Shore is mixed.
Republican activists say he is a hard-working, honest man who strove tirelessly to build the party.
"He was on the right side of the middle, and of course that plays well on the Eastern Shore," said John A. Bartkovich, chairman of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.
In 2001, Floyd moved to Arlington after landing a job in the Bush administration. He sold his Salisbury business to Fred Puente.
In an interview, Puente said he regrets making the purchase because he and Floyd have been involved in a dispute over who is responsible for recent claims made against the business.
"I would never do business with Chuck Floyd again," said Puente, a registered Democrat. "I wouldn't believe Chuck Floyd if he told me the sun was shining and I was standing there looking at him."
Floyd said Puente is the one who is untrustworthy.
In the Bush administration, Floyd worked for the State Department as director of Planning and Development for Overseas Building Operations, where he said he oversaw a $1.5 billion budget and managed 13,000 properties at 260 locations.
Floyd resigned last year to run for Congress. A few months earlier, he had gotten married and moved from Virginia to Kensington.
A key component of his campaign has been reaching out to minority groups and the Jewish community, two constituencies with considerable clout in the 8th. Floyd, a Methodist, said he is a member of both the American Israel Public Action Committee and the Council on American-Islam Relations.
"With my international travels and experience, I know the issues," Floyd said. "I've traveled the world."
Despite his loose ties to the district, Republicans rallied around him during the primary to prevent anti-tax activist Robin Ficker from winning the nomination.
During both the primary and the current campaign against Van Hollen, Floyd has been criticized for some of his tactics. Ficker filed a lawsuit this year when Floyd's campaign posted unflattering things about his opponent on a Web site that used the address www.robinficker.com.
This fall, Floyd repeated the tactic, known as cyber-squatting, but this time using several variations of Van Hollen's name to put up Web sites sharply critical of the incumbent. On one site, Floyd accuses Van Hollen of trying to plant spies in his campaign -- a charge the Democratic camp strongly denies.
Despite some misgivings over the nasty tone of the campaign, Republican leaders say they have been impressed with Floyd's campaign.
"He has an awfully strong core of grass-roots supporters," said John Kane, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.
But Floyd has fallen far short of his goal of raising $2 million for his race. As of Oct. 1, he had raised about $333,000, including a $220,000 loan he made to his campaign, according to campaign finance reports.
Floyd said he expects to win next week, but if he doesn't, he plans to run again in 2006.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.