Two years after Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) slogged through a bruising campaign to defeat a 16-year Republican incumbent he finds himself facing a pesky GOP challenger.
Chuck Floyd, who moved to the 8th Congressional District 18 months ago, has spent more than $200,000 of his own money to oust Van Hollen after one term.
A retired military officer and former State Department official, Floyd says Van Hollen is too liberal and partisan to be effective in the GOP-controlled House.
"With my background and experience, I'll get more done in 90 days than my opponent has done in two years," Floyd said.
Van Hollen, who defeated Constance A. Morella (R) in 2002, scoffs at the suggestion that he is a backbencher. "One thing my constituents want is someone who is a strong voice on the issues they care about, not someone who is always hedging their bets," he said.
Recently, Van Hollen has gained national attention by leading an effort to pass an amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds for a $10 billion buyout for tobacco farmers. A congressional conference committee agreed to make tobacco companies pay.
A member of the Education and Workforce and the Government Reform committees, Van Hollen also points to his efforts to increase funding for special education. Last year, he also succeeded in passing an amendment that hindered the Bush administration's plans to contract out some federal jobs.
Van Hollen, who is backed by a coalition of labor, environmental and gun control organizations, opposed the war in Iraq. He believes his views will resonate with voters in the district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
"I don't think the voters in this community want to further expand Tom DeLay's base in the House," Van Hollen said, referring to the House majority leader.
Floyd, who supported the war in Iraq, says Van Hollen is beholden to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. "He's voted 99 percent of the time with his own party," Floyd said.
Montgomery County voters will also go to the polls Tuesday to elect a U.S. senator and a member of Congress from the 4th District. Frederick County residents, along with some Montgomery County residents, will choose a 6th District representative.
In the 6th District, Republican incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett faces Democrat Kenneth T. Bosley, a Baltimore County farmer and former biology teacher. Also running is Green Party candidate Gregory J. Hemingway of Lutherville, an accountant with Ernst & Young in Baltimore.
Bartlett promises to keep bringing bacon to the 6th District, which has benefited from his support of a $200 million laboratory expansion at Frederick's Fort Detrick. He also cites his initiatives to support small business, such as his sponsorship of conferences and information sessions aimed at helping the district's homegrown businesses win big-ticket contracts at the fort.
Bosley ran twice for Congress in the 2nd District before his home in Sparks was redistricted into the 6th District after the 2000 Census.
He said he wants to limit access to home loans and credit cards to "people who can afford them" and would like Frederick's Interstate 270 commuters to take turns using the highway. Those with odd-numbered license tags would get to commute on the highway one day, and those with even numbers would get to use it the next.
Bartlett, Bosley said, "has a staff of 15. He should working harder to bring more federal funds back to the district."
In the 4th District, two candidates, both former Democrats, are trying to block Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) from returning to Capitol Hill for his seventh term.
Though neither of the challengers, John McKinnis and Theresa Mitchell Dudley, has held office, Wynn said he was campaigning hard.
"In politics, you can never take anything for granted," he said recently.
McKinnis, a Silver Spring resident, owns an information technology firm in Beltsville. Dudley, a Kentland resident, is public school teacher and community activist.
McKinnis switched to the GOP six years ago after he felt the Democratic Party had moved too far to the left. Dudley, who has run unsuccessfully three times for County Council in the Democratic primary, turned to the Green Party to challenge the congressman.
Both have criticized Wynn for his push to bring a casino resort to Prince George's County and his heavy hand in local matters.
"I figured if I have to run against Al Wynn every time I run for council, I might as well run against him," Dudley said.
"He strong-arms them: 'I got you elected, you gotta do it my way,' " McKinnis said of Wynn's relationship with council members and the state delegation.
In the U.S. Senate race, Barbara A. Mikulski (D) is facing an energetic challenge from state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne's), a former Wall Street junk bond dealer who has used more than $1 million of his own money for the race.
A native of Dundalk, Pipkin worked on Wall Street before he moved back to Maryland in the late 1990s. He was elected to the state Senate in 2002 after helping lead a fight to stop plans to dredge Baltimore Harbor and dump the spoils near his 18-acre home on Kent Island.
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 grew up in East Baltimore, said Pipkin is distorting her record. She serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and has pursued legislation she says is aimed at helping senior citizens, middle-class families andstudents trying to pay rising tuition.
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.
Others running for the seat are Maria Allwine, a Baltimore resident and member of the Green Party, and Thomas Trump of White Marsh, a Constitution Party candidate.