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Congressman Chris Van Hollen, MD-08 recently succeeded Rahm Emanuel as the newest head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee.  Yesterday Chris Bowers wrote about Chris Van Hollen's plan outlining early DCCC strategy for 2008. Van Hollen, in the previous election cycle, played a role in recruiting candidates to run for Congress in red districts.  He initially won his seat in 2002, by defeating the popular liberal Republican Connie Morella.

While, we here in Maryland know Chris Van Hollen well, I thought it would be good for folks across the country to know a bit more about Chris.

According to Wikipedia, Chris was born a U.S. citizen in Karachi, Pakistan.  His Dutch-born father was a US foreign service officer that was stationed there at that time.  During his youth Chris also lived in Turkey, Sri Lanka, and India.  As an undergraduate, Chris Van Hollen attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.  He received a Masters in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center.

After serving as a Legislative Assistant for Defense and Foreign Policy to former Maryland Senator Charles McC. Mathias, Jr,  a Professional Staff Member on the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a Senior Legislative Advisor for Federal Affairs to Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer, Van Hollen went on to run for the Maryland General Assembly, where he served 12 years, one term as State Delegate and two terms as State Senator.

While in the Assembly, Van Hollen authored landmark education funding legislation, the Patient Protection Act, the Clean Energy Incentives Act, the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act and was a key Senate leader in the passage of Maryland's gun safety law. The Washington Post called him "One of the most accomplished members of the General Assembly." [1]

In 2002, he left Annapolis to run for US Congress in Maryland District 8.  Before facing Connie Morella, he had to win the Democratic Primary where he faced State Delegate Mark Shriver (son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and brother of Maria Shriver) and former Clinton Administration aide Ira Shapiro. (For a taste of the issues tackled during the primary, see this article reporting extensively on a local forum the candidates participated in.)  Down a few percentage points in the polls, Van Hollen managed to gain endorsements from the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, along with support from a number of environmental groups. Van Hollen pulled an upset by defeating the much better financed Shriver with strong grassroots support by a margin of 43.5% to 40.6%.  

He went on to defeat Connie Morella in November 2002.  MD-08 was redistricted that year and many feel gerrymandering helped Van Hollen defeat the very popular liberal Republican.  I'd like to personally note, that I had previously voted for Connie Morella, but with George W. Bush in office and the Republicans controlling Congress, I felt it important enough to consider Chris Van Hollen's challenge closely. (I admit, I was oblivious to the primary that happened in the September prior.)  Thanks to a bit of internet research just days prior to the election, I decided Chris was indeed a solid candidate with a strong record on education and the environment.  I chose to vote for him over the very competent Connie Morella, who was and still is greatly respected by Montgomery County residents.  I felt strongly (and correctly) that we could not afford to have a Representative that would be strongly pressured by her party to support misguided and destructive Bush policies in spite of her more liberal ideology.  (Note: Morella was raised in a Democratic family, but became a Republican after meeting her husband who worked for liberal Republicans John Lindsay, Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Mathias, and others.)

Since entering Congress in 2002, Chris has continued to demonstrate leadership. The first bill Congressman Van Hollen introduces every session is the Keep Our Promise to America's Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would fully fund No Child Left Behind and IDEA. He serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Committee on Government Reform, and the Committee on the Judiciary. He is also the Vice Chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. You can browse through bills the Chris Van Hollen sponsored or co-sponsored here.

This session he already introduced H.R. 633 The Bundling Disclosure Act which would require lobbyists to disclose if they bundled individual campaign contributions and directed them to members of Congress.  Similar legislation introduced by Senators Feingold and Obama was adopted in the opening 100 hours.

According to his press release,

Last year, Van Hollen amended the Lobbying Disclosure Act in the Judiciary Committee to require lobbyists to disclose their bundling of funds.  This amendment was adopted on a bipartisan vote of 28 to 4.  Unfortunately, this bundling disclosure provision was mysteriously stripped from the bill without a vote or comment.  Efforts to add the provision back into the bill in the Rules Committee or on the House floor were blocked.

Given that Chris has always been a proponent of Clean Energy, I'd like to point out his statement this past week on HR 6, The Clean Energy Act of 2006. (Video here)

Mr. Speaker, it was just about a year ago that the President of the United States came before this Congress and told the country that America is addicted to oil.  He was right then and many of us were pleased to hear him acknowledge that very real fact.  However, even as we all acknowledge the seriousness of the energy challenge we face as a Nation, the President and the last Congress failed to actually do something about it.  We heard great words, but didn't see good deeds.  In fact, rather than invest adequately in renewable energy and energy efficiency, we took the opposite approach.  We gave greater breaks in taxes to the oil and gas industry even as prices at the pump went up and profits soared.  That policy only served to feed the addiction to oil, not break that addiction.  It made us more dependent, not less dependent on oil and gas and the volatile regions of the world that control the greatest reserves.                                                                                                                                
This is a time to change direction, to set a new course on energy policy, to say to the country: We're not just talking rhetoric. We mean what we say.

Note that this speech was given to the committee and not the full no he is not calling Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Speaker. LOL.

Finally, let me add that Chris Van Hollen participated in a chat session with the Washington Post this past Monday.  He took time to speak about his new responsibilities as Chair of DCCC as well as his day job as a member of Congress representing MD-08. Here's two of the questions and answers that demonstrates Chris' diplomatic nature:

Washington: No offense to Rahm Emanuel but thank you for putting a kinder, gentler face on Democratic fundraising.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen: We are going to work with all supporters of the Democratic Party to ensure we have a good fundraising base from grassroots efforts to other efforts, and we encourage everybody to contribute to the effort and ensure that in this season of Presidential politics and don't lose sight of sustaining and improving our majority in the Congress.

We worked very closely with Rahm Emanuel in the last election. Every chairman brings his own approach and management style to the DCCC. We had a very successful election in the last cycle and we can build on it going forward.


Rockville, Md.: Rep. Van Hollen: I'm concerned about the role you've offered to Howard Dean in recruiting candidates. What assurances can you give us that Mr. Dean won't go after wing-nuts and whack-a-doodles to fill the Democratic House roster?

Rep. Chris Van Hollen: I look forward to working with former Gov. Dean in this election cycle. Rest assured that we are determined to find candidates who appeal to a broad cross-section of their communities. We are looking for candidates who reflect the values and priorities of the majority of people in their communities.

Chris Van Hollen is a progressive legislator who tends to consider things carefully and is diplomatic in his methods.  I think he will be able to coordinate well with Howard Dean and certainly is not the type to air dirty laundry in public.  I suspect the netroots will find Chris Van Hollen a far better fit for the role of Charirman of the DCCC than Rahm Emanuel.  

Originally posted to Sharon in MD on Thu Jan 25, 2007 at 05:40 AM PST.

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