District 8 Congressional Race: Van Hollen Upsets Morella

Republican Rep. Connie Morella knew she could lose due to redistricting. The 16-year congresswoman, then 70, could have chosen to retire rather than fight. “I said, ‘No, I want to show more guts than that,’ ” Morella recalled not long ago. So Morella, who’d long epitomized “nice” in Montgomery County politics, ran attack ads for the first time ever.

Her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Chris Van Hollen, had scored a narrow upset victory in the primary election against state Del. Mark Shriver, a scion of the Kennedy family. “It was one of the toughest campaigns I’ve ever seen,” state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Van Hollen supporter, reminisced recently. “Mark Shriver was a formidable candidate and guess what? Uncle Teddy got involved”—the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Morella came out fighting against Van Hollen. Her campaign accused him of “lies and distortions” relating back to a mailer Van Hollen had sent during the primary that pictured him on a fake cover of Time magazine, which earlier had praised him. Some supporters urged him to strike back, but Van Hollen feared a backlash due to Morella’s 75 percent approval rating. Instead, he sought to frame the race as a contest for control of Congress. Van Hollen won and has held the seat since. He is now running for the Senate.

Pictured: Chris Van Hollen