Lollar enters fray vs. Hoyer

GOP chairman takes on longtime House incumbent

Friday, July 31, 2009

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One week after his eligibility to run for governor came into question, Charles County Republican Central Committee Chairman Charles J. Lollar has announced the formation of an exploratory committee to run for Congress in Maryland's 5th District.

In an e-mail sent to supporters Wednesday, Lollar said his conversations with frustrated taxpayers, entrepreneurs, senior citizens and military personnel about "reckless actions Congress makes on a daily basis" drove his desire to unseat U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

Lollar said in the e-mail: "As one person said to me, ‘Congressman Hoyer is not part of the problem. He is the problem.'"

Until last week, Lollar, 38, of Newburg seemed ready to announce a run for governor.

But the Maryland Independent first reported last week that he did not meet the eligibility requirements because he would not have been a registered voter in Maryland for five years preceding the Nov. 2, 2010, general election. A copy of Lollar's voter registration card indicates he signed and dated the document on June 6, 2006, some eight months after he would have had to register.

Now, Lollar has turned his attention to mounting a campaign against Hoyer (D-Md., 5th), who has served in Congress since 1981 and has easily defeated previous Republican opponents.

The e-mailed letter also solicits contributions of up to $1,000 in his effort to raise more than $50,000 to open a headquarters, conduct a poll and build a grass-roots network. Hoyer is among the most well-financed congressmen and often doles out funds from his mammoth campaign war chest to vulnerable Democratic incumbents and promising challengers around the country.

Lollar, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who moved to Maryland from suburban Atlanta in October 2005, is eligible to run for Congress. The U.S. Constitution states that a candidate for the House of Representatives must be at least 25, a U.S. citizen for seven years and a resident of the state in which he or she is elected.

He is chairman of a conservative-leaning group called Concerned Citizens for a Better Maryland, which decries the Democratic-run leadership in Annapolis and Washington on frivolous spending, the high federal and state tax burden and the Obama administration's health care reform proposal.

"Simply put, the American dream is under assault," Lollar wrote in the letter. "Competition and striving for success is being thrown aside for socialism, wealth redistribution and government bailouts. Congress has spent $4 trillion and shows no signs of slowing down. If they continue, the dollar will not be worth the paper it is printed on."

Despite running in a heavily Democratic district that spans five counties — Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's — Lollar comes off in the letter as undeterred, saying that he refuses to "sit on the sidelines when it is so clear that new leadership is desperately needed."

But Michael J.G. Cain, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College, said anyone who wants to mount a serious challenge to Hoyer must first be able to raise enough money to spread his name and message. He must also convince voters that Hoyer has been in Congress for too long and does not represent the district well, which Cain thinks will be difficult to convey.

"It remains to be seen how the campaign develops but the only thing that can really spell trouble for the majority leader is a catastrophic failure in the economy, and I don't see that happening," Cain said.