Brad Jewitt has raised $128,000 in his bid to unseat Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, surpassing the amount collected by the last two Republican candidates in the 5th Congressional District.
But Hoyer, the House minority whip, has $1.6 million on hand, according to the latest federal filings.
The fundraising gap illustrates the immensity of Jewitt's challenge in unseating the 12-term incumbent. The former Marine has made inroads in parts of Southern Maryland that are increasingly Republican, but Hoyer remains a formidable opponent.
Fifth District voters will also go to the polls Tuesday to elect a U.S. senator. Three-term incumbent Barbara A. Mikulski (D) faces Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne's).
Jewitt, 34, former mayor of Berwyn Heights, said his opponent is more liberal than the constituents he represents. As evidence, he cites Hoyer's opposition to a ban on a procedure that opponents call partial birth abortion and his votes against constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and flag burning. Jewitt supports those measures.
"My opponent doesn't share our views and values," he said. "Partisan politics have risen to such a level with my opponent that he has lost his objectivity."
Hoyer's supporters, however, are more interested in his ability to funnel federal money to the area, much of it to Patuxent River Naval Air Station and Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center. Hoyer, 65, of Mechanicsville said he has secured more than $350 million in military construction projects since 1994.
"I don't agree in principle with some of the things he's voted on, but if you look at the whole picture, he has served Southern Maryland very well," said former state senator C. Bernard Fowler, a Democrat.
Hoyer said his position as the second-ranking Democrat in the House gives him special power to benefit constituents. But Jewitt says Hoyer cannot effectively represent the district as long as Republicans control the Congress. Hoyer's duties as minority whip, which include keeping the partisan heat on the GOP, also make it difficult for him to build coalitions, Jewitt added.
"As a member of the minority party, he has less influence to advocate on our behalf," Jewitt said. "He's not making any friends on the other side of the aisle."
Hoyer remains unstinting in his criticism of GOP tax plans in 2001 and last year, calling them"fiscally irresponsible." The cuts, he said, primarily benefited the wealthy and plunged the country into debt.
"In the long run, I think the deficit is the most important problem facing this nation," he said. "Our fiscal policy has been terrible."
Jewitt supports further tax cuts, although he declined to say how Congress could make such cuts without increasing the national debt.
Hoyer also criticized President Bush's management of the war in Iraq and the failure to find Osama bin Laden. Jewitt supports Bush's war policies and his efforts to combat terrorism.
In the Senate race, Mikulski is facing an energetic challenge from Pipkin, a former Wall Street junk bond dealer who has used more than $1 million of his own money to finance his race.
Pipkin, who was elected to the state Senate in 2002, was initially reluctant to make the run but decided that the election of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had helped pave the way for other Republicans to run statewide even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-1 in Maryland.
A native of Dundalk, Pipkin moved back to Maryland in the late 1990s after 16 years of working on Wall Street. He became heavily involved in a successful effort to stop plans to dredge Baltimore Harbor and dump the spoils near his 18-acre home on Kent Island. Mikulski, he said, did nothing to help his efforts, a claim she disputes.
His campaign has focused on what he says is Mikulski's pattern of supporting higher taxes, opposing defense spending and sending soldiers to war without proper equipment or pay. Mikulski, who initially ignored Pipkin's claims, has been responding in recent weeks, saying he is distorting her record and mischaracterizing many of her Senate votes.
Mikulski, who grew up in East Baltimore, is a former social worker. She served on the Baltimore City Council and spent 10 years in the House of Representatives before winning her Senate seat in 1986. She serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and has pursued legislation that she says is aimed at helping the elderly, middle class families and college students trying to pay rising tuition costs.
Her campaign has raised more than $5 million. Coupled with Pipkin's extensive self-financing of his campaign, the race has become one of the most expensive in Maryland history.