With proposals for a $10-an-hour federal minimum wage and new taxes, Republican Shelly Skolnick can sound like a Democrat when he talks about his 2016 primary campaign in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.

“I consider myself a moderate,” said Skolnick, a Silver Spring elder-law attorney. “Most of my personal friends are liberal Democrats.”

The 8th was once a habitable environment for Skolnick’s brand of moderate Republicanism, sustaining Gilbert Gude and Constance A. Morella through long runs in the U.S. House. But that was before the GOP lurched rightward in the 1990s, and Democrats gerrymandered Morella out of her seat in 2002 to make way for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D).

Since then, no Republican congressional nominee has broken the 40 percent barrier in the 8th.

Aryeh Shudofsky is running for the GOP nomination to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. (Courtesy of Aryeh Shudofsky)

Democrats have a 2-to-1 registration advantage in the mushroom-shaped district, with a slender stem that threads north through liberal Montgomery County before spreading across parts of Carroll and Frederick counties to the Pennsylvania border. President Obama won the 8th with 62.8 percent of the vote in 2012.

So daunting are those numbers that even the rare open congressional seat, created by Van Hollen’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, has not sparked huge interest among Republicans.

Only Skolnick and Silver Spring financial adviser Aryeh Shudofsky have formally filed as candidates in the April 26 Republican primary. A third potential candidate, Bethesda business consultant Gus Alzona, said he plans to do so before the Feb. 3 deadline.

By contrast, seven Republicans have stepped up for a chance to take on incumbent Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) in Western Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, where the partisan mix is more favorable, though it, too, is considered a safe Democratic seat.

The 8th District Republicans have had little to say about each other and have not held any joint appearances. (The Democrats vying to succeed Van Hollen, however, have debated multiple times.)

Skolnick, 72, wants to create a value-added tax to pay for opening Medicare Part A (hospitalization and nursing home care) to all U.S. citizens and cutting the cost of health insurance. He also favors barring drug companies from advertising on radio and television, a move he said would lower drug prices.

Shelly Skolnick is running for the GOP nomination to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. (Courtesy of Skolnick campaign)

To cut student debt, he wants to convert Pell Grants to $10,000 “Shell Grants” (Shelly, get it?) available to students who volunteer as first responders or school tutors. He said he would raise money for highway repairs by raising the gas tax 1 percent per month for a year, and then 1 percent annually.

“These are very specific, affordable, payable solutions,” said Skolnick, who also ran for Congress in 2012, losing in the Republican primary. He lost a run for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council in 2014.

Shudofsky, 34, a New Jersey native and a former aide to Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), ran unsuccessfully for the Montgomery County Board of Education in 2012. He said that although he disagrees with many of Van Hollen’s positions, he respects him as someone who did his best for the district.

Shudofsky is less specific than Skolnick on what he would try to do if elected, but he said he generally supports tax credits for business start-ups, fewer regulatory requirements for established employers and financial literacy courses for all children.

Shudofsky is outspoken in his support for Israel and said he opposes the international nuclear deal with Iran that was championed by Obama. He said he agrees with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s call for suspending the settlement of Syrian refugees in Maryland.

“My sense is we’ve come to a point in time where people are desperate for someone who speaks for them,” Shudofsky said. “Our elected officials talk about a host of issues but not ones that speak to the concerns of the electorate.”

The 2010 redistricting shifted Democratic precincts in Carroll and Frederick counties into the 6th District, setting up Delaney’s 2012 defeat of Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett. It also added GOP voters to the 8th, which Shudofsky said represents an opportunity.

He pointed out that the Republican share of the general-election vote in the 8th has nearly doubled since 2008 and that in 2014, Republican challenger Dave Wallace drew 39 percent against Van Hollen. He said he can win the seat by putting together a coalition of Republicans, independents and moderate Democrats.

Alzona, 63, the third potential candidate and a Filipino immigrant who ran for Congress in 2006 and 2012, is more conservative than Skolnick and Shudofsky.

A supporter of GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, he declined a request for an interview, but he told a gathering of the Montgomery County Young Republicans in September that he would back the rescinding of Obama’s executive orders and push for an “unbiased” investigation into what he described as intelligence failures before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At the meeting, a video of which was posted on the political blog A Miner Detail, Alzona also told the group that unnamed Democrats were “doing opposition research on me as we speak.”