CUMBERLAND, Md. — There is a stark difference in tone between the campaigns of U.S. Rep. John Delaney and Republican challenger Amie Hoeber that recalls the summertime convention speeches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Like Trump, whom she half-heartedly supports as her party’s presidential nominee, Hoeber describes an America threatened by national security failures.
“I think that we are actually worried about our own safety in this county, and for good reason,” Hoeber, a former national security consultant, told a group of retired school personnel in Cumberland.
Echoing Clinton’s hopeful themes, Delaney proclaimed his faith in America’s youth and the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“I think I’m more optimistic about our country now that I’ve had the privilege of serving it since 2012,” the 53-year-old Democratic congressman told the same audience.
Their contest in the 6th Congressional District is considered the most competitive among Maryland’s eight House races, largely because Delaney’s 2014 victory margin over Republican Dan Bongino was so close — less than 2 percentage points. Delaney attributed the tight margin to a relatively low turnout in heavily Democratic Montgomery County, and a big GOP turnout statewide that helped Republican newcomer Larry Hogan upset Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in the governor’s race.
The popular governor told Hoeber supporters Thursday that her underdog bid to unseat Delaney reminds him of his 2014 campaign.
Hoeber — whose first name is pronounced AH’-mee, short for Amoretta — has been busy making personal contact with voters across the mostly rural, five-county district, stretching 180 miles from the Washington suburbs to the West Virginia border. She’s focusing closely on Frederick County, one of two counties Bongino lost. The other was Montgomery, just outside Washington, the district’s only county with more registered Democrats than Republicans — enough to give registered Democrats an edge district-wide.
Hoeber, 74, was deputy undersecretary of the Army during the Reagan administration. She said she’s guided by a bedrock Republican principle straight out of the Reagan playbook: “I don’t think government should exist anymore than absolutely necessary.”
Like many Republicans, she also has qualms about Trump. Hoeber said in a Facebook post she’s offended by the “sexist abusive attitude” exemplified by some of Trump’s remarks about women, but she has stood by her pledge to support the Republican nominee. Hogan has endorsed Hoeber, but not Trump.
Hoeber diverges from Trump on other points as well. She said she wouldn’t support a blanket ban on Muslim immigrants, and she isn’t convinced that a physical wall between the United States and Mexico is needed to secure the border.
She and Delaney largely agree that job creation requires widening Interstates 270 and I-81 and bringing broadband internet capability to the western mountains. Both say abortion is a personal choice, although Hoeber opposes federal funding for Planned Parenthood. And both oppose allowing hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland.
They disagree on other issues including:
Hoeber favors reversing energy policies that she said have eliminated coal-mining jobs in western Maryland. She opposes Delaney’s proposal to tax air pollution from coal-burning power plants.
Delaney said his bipartisan bill would help create jobs in the “advanced energy economy,” including both renewable and nuclear energy. Hoeber also sees nuclear energy as a potential, long-range solution.
Hoeber criticized Delaney’s opposition to a measure that would have helped state and federal agencies obtain certain types of military equipment, including Humvees and night-vision goggles, for border security.
Delany called the measure dangerous because it also favored providing border states with aerial drones capable of firing missiles.
MIDDLE EAST POLICY
Hoeber calls the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Delaney supported, “probably the worst mistake this country has made in a long time.”
Delaney has said he reluctantly voted for the deal because of its 15-year restrictions on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capabilities and various paths to a nuclear weapon.
Delaney blasted Hoeber’s 1996 Senate testimony opposing ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty. Without it, “United States troops would be at greater risk,” a Delaney campaign statement said.
Hoeber testified that the treaty would not rid the world of chemical weapons, and it hasn’t.
Hoeber says she’d like to prevent mentally ill people from owning guns.
Delaney advocates barring people on the government’s no-fly list from getting guns, and tightening background checks required for many firearms purchases.
Both candidates live in the wealthy Washington suburb of Potomac, just outside the 6th District. Delaney, a former investment banker, has complained to the Federal Elections Commission that Hoeber illegally coordinated with a super PAC funded almost exclusively by her husband, Qualcomm Inc. executive Mark Epstein. Hoeber has denied any violations.
Registered Republican Davene Sheehe, a retired kindergarten teacher, said she’ll likely vote along party lines for Hoeber, although she thinks Delaney’s done a good job.
John Jones, a retired college mathematics instructor, said Delaney won his vote by emphasizing a bipartisan approach to policymaking.
“I think he’s willing to work with the Republicans and put the country ahead of a political party,” Jones said.