A former Maryland state delegate who was seeking the Republican nomination to replace outgoing Democrat John Delaney in the U.S. House dropped out of that race Friday, saying he wants to focus exclusively on efforts to curtail the opioid epidemic.
Matt Mossburg, who served one term in the Maryland General Assembly in the 1990s, is a recovering opioid addict. He said running for Congress hindered his efforts to lobby for the issue in Annapolis.
"People don't want to hear Republican or Democrat when chances are either they or someone they know is struggling with addiction," Mossburg said.
The move helps clear a path to the nomination for Amie Hoeber, a defense contractor who challenged Delaney in 2016 and has the funds to compete in Washington's expensive media market. Another GOP candidate, nurse practitioner Lisa Lloyd, is seeking office for the first time and lacks Hoeber's fundraising network, name recognition and ability to self-finance.
Mossburg said he will stay neutral in the primary, which is June 26.
Six Democrats are seeking the nomination to succeed Delaney: retired intelligence officer Andrew Duck, pediatrician and novelist Nadia Hashimi, former aerospace executive Chris Hearsey, Del. Aruna Miller (Montgomery), state Sen. Roger Manno (Montgomery) and Total Wine co-founder David Trone.
There has been speculation that Mossburg would withdraw from the race to work on the opioid crisis for Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has made addiction issues a priority in his administration.
"I have spoken with people in his administration about working with him, but there's nothing on the table," he said in an interview Friday.
Mossburg is trying to rally support for the creation of a state task force to examine the pros and cons of using other drugs to treat opioid addition, and to look for ways to ensure elected officials maintain strong oversight of the pharmaceutical industry.
He decided to run for Congress last year after sharing his experience during a public hearing on opioid legislation. After losing his statehouse seat in the late 1990s, he developed a four-year addiction to narcotics. He relapsed in 2010, after eight years, while he was the main caregiver for his then-wife, who was seriously injured in a car accident.
"I was like a tornado blowing through people's lives, just causing wreckage and blaming everybody else for our problems and not taking personal responsibility," he says in a campaign video.
By the summer of 2013, Mossburg was broke and living out of his car. For most of a year, he said, he couldn't take care of himself and contemplated suicide. Eventually he ended up in the hospital. From there, he entered to a 28-day rehabilitation program.
Now in what he calls "active recovery," he wants to expand detox centers, sober houses and peer-to-peer networks. He does not endorse using other drugs — such as methadone and buprenorphine — to wean people off opioids.
Maryland's 6th District stretches from liberal Washington suburbs in Montgomery County to more conservative counties reaching into Appalachia. Its boundaries are the subject of a gerrymandering lawsuit that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.