Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a comment comparing abortion to the Holocaust to Del. David Vogt. Christopher Mason made the comment. The story has been corrected.
Amie Hoeber cruised through the first 90 minutes of Thursday night’s Republican forum for congressional candidates in Western Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.
A first-time candidate at 73, eyed by the national GOP as a promising prospect to unseat incumbent Democrat John Delaney, she touted her credentials as a Reagan-era deputy undersecretary of the Army and drew rousing cheers from her supporters at the Holiday Inn Gaithersburg.
She was joined by seven other contenders: Washington County Commissioner Terry Baker; Montgomery Village research scientist Scott Cheng; Republican activist Robin Ficker; Laytonsville businessman Frank Howard; Frederick security consultant and former Marine Christopher Mason; Gaithersburg accountant Harold Painter; and state Del. David E. Vogt III (District 4), also a former Marine.
But the final half-hour got bumpy for Hoeber when the discussion turned to abortion.
A panelist asked Hoeber about her involvement with the National Women’s Political Caucus, a nonpartisan group that supports, among other issues, abortion rights. Hoeber’s campaign website biography notes that she was co-founder and past chair of caucus chapters in Northern Virginia and in Los Angeles. Earlier this week, the group endorsed Rep. Donna F. Edwards (Md.), one of the most liberal lawmakers in Congress, in her Democratic primary campaign for the U.S. Senate.
“Ms. Hoeber, do you support abortion, and, if not, why did you have such an association with a militantly pro-abortion organization?” asked panelist Brian Griffiths, editor-in-chief of Red Maryland, a conservative blog.
Hoeber, the only woman at the table of candidates, noted that other Republican women were active in the group, including the late Kathy Wilson, who chaired the organization in the early 1980s.
“We stand united supporting women. I have supported women all my life,” said Hoeber, who sits on the board of the Maryland chapter of House of Ruth, an organization that provides services to women and children who have suffered from domestic violence.
“Do you support abortion?” asked a male voice in the audience of about 125. Hoeber tried to move on. “I do not think that’s a reasonable issue. That is settled law,” she said.
“Planned Parenthood funding is settled law?” asked another voice from the crowd.
In a separate round of questioning a few minutes later, Griffiths asked Hoeber again if she supported abortion. Again, Hoeber tried to evade a direct answer.
“I’m a mother. I’m a stepmother. I’m a grandmother,” she said. “I think I understand in ways unique to this group of candidates about the preciousness of life. But I believe the abortion question has been settled by law, and I support the law of the United States.”
Panelists also asked Baker, Mason and Vogt their position on abortion; all three said they opposed it, with Mason calling the practice “a greater Holocaust going on now than in Nazi Germany.” Howard and Ficker have said in past campaign questionnaires that they favor late-term abortion limits.
While the 6th District — which runs from Potomac through the Maryland panhandle to the West Virginia border — is considered to be safely in Democratic hands, Republicans are encouraged by former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino’s near-upset of Delaney in 2014. Bongino came within 2,700 votes out of 190,000 cast.
All eight Republican candidates had strong words for the incumbent, who lives in Potomac, in the neighboring 8th Congressional District. “He thought Frostburg was in Siberia,” said Ficker, referring to the city in the 6th District’s Allegany County.
Howard, also a District 8 resident, denounced Delaney’s support of the Iran nuclear agreement, saying he “couldn’t be more opposed.” He also said if he were elected he would work to “hit the reset button” on the relationship between the United States and Israel.
The evening was filled with red meat rhetoric and unusual ideas.
To reduce traffic congestion in the Washington region, Painter said he favored moving some big federal agencies out of the District. He suggested, for example, that the Agriculture Department could be shifted to Kansas City.
Mason called for a halt to all immigration and said climate change was “a total hoax.” While he once thought Islamist extremism was the greatest threat to national security, he said, he now thinks “the greatest threat to our country is the Democratic Party.”
Baker, ticking off the terrorist attacks of recent years, said: “If I were in war, I think the last people I’d want in my foxhole would be Clinton, either one, Obama, Kerry. I’d have to take them out first.”