Races of the Week:Floyd vs. Van Hollen

When Chris Van Hollen ousted liberal Republican Rep. Connie Morella from Maryland’s 8th District two years ago, Republicans more or less decided that the district was gone from their grasp for good. Not only had the Democratic-orchestrated redistricting enhanced party ranks in the suburban Washington, D.C. district, but — the general conclusion went — if eight-term Rep. Connie Morella couldn’t keep it from Van Hollen, what Republican could?

One who thinks he can retake the 8th for the GOP this year is Chuck Floyd, a retired U.S. Army major and former State Department official. As the GOP nominee puts it, “A lot of people thought I was nuts for running. But at some point, you have to take a risk.”

Risk-taking is something that Kensington resident Floyd has been doing for most of his 53 years. After graduating as an ROTC officer from the University of Richmond, Floyd went on to serve his active duty in numerous countries, earn two master’s degrees, and become deputy commander of the U.S. forces in charge of logistical support of the 11-nation task force that kept peace between Egypt and Israel. Upon retirement from the Army, Floyd launched his own government contracting company and threw himself into community activities ranging from the Veterans of Foreign Wars to the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve had real-live experiences and am results-oriented, as opposed to my opponent, who has been either a lawyer or elected official most of his life,” observed Floyd, pointing out that the then-State Sen. Van Hollen was featured in his law firm’s advertising as a reason to hire the firm.

The contrasts between Floyd and Von Hollen transcend their respective backgrounds: while the Democratic congressman opposed all of President Bush’s tax cuts and voted against repealing the estate tax, the Republican challenger has proudly signed the “No New Taxes” pledge of Americans for Tax Reform and wants to cut or eliminate as many taxes as possible; while Van Hollen joined with 188 House Democrats in voting against the reauthorization of “tough-love” welfare reform (which, interestingly, was signed into law by one Bill Clinton in 1996), Floyd stands foursquare for maintaining and enhancing this successful reform.

But the twin themes of patriotism and the war on terrorism are what most propel Floyd as he makes the rounds of Kiwanis luncheons, Optimists’ breakfasts, and VFW suppers throughout the 8th. As he tells audiences, “My opponent opposed the President’s plan to rebuild Iraq, opposed capping donations to the UN and even voted against a ban on burning Old Glory. You know where I stand on all of these issues.”

Inevitably, when asked how he can overcome the substantial Democratic registration edge in the district, Floyd notes that he switched from Democrat to Republican himself in 1992 because “I felt the Democrats had gutted the military and drifted to the left. To me, it’s not about part — it’s about issues and accomplishing things.”

(Floyd for U.S. Congress, P.O. Box 70882, Chevy Chase, MD 20813; 301-656-1313;