Simpson weighs opposing Hoyer in Southern Md.


WASHINGTON -- State Sen. James C. Simpson, a fiscally conservative Democrat from Charles County, said he is considering running against Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, should the liberal congressman's district be redrawn to include Southern Maryland.

"It's something I'm thinking about," said the 60-year-old lawmaker, who called Mr. Hoyer too liberal for Southern Maryland.

Mr. Hoyer, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, is "a little bit removed from Southern Maryland's way of thinking," said Mr. Simpson, who termed the congressman a "fiscal liberal as far as his spending habits."

Senator Simpson, who has represented Charles and St. Mary's counties for 17 years, said there is a "50-50" chance he would run against the congressman, acknowledging it would be a tough race. He expects to reach a decision in September -- when the new districts are approved by the legislature.

State Democratic leaders are working to create a "safe seat" for Mr. Hoyer during this once-a-decade redrawing of congressional district lines. There is speculation they will fashion a district that includes Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties along with portions of Prince George's County.

Much of Mr. Hoyer's current district would be used to create a new minority district. Southern Maryland is now represented by Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st.

Mr. Hoyer, who has purchasedproperty in St. Mary's County, said at his annual fund-raiser last week that his new district will likely include portions of Southern Maryland.

Mr. Simpson, vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, ran a wholesale beverage distribution company until he sold it in 1986. The senator, an opponent of the $800 million Linowes tax restructuring plan, called Mr. Hoyer "anti-business," charging, "He sold himself to labor."

"Basically his whole life's revolved around being in politics," added Mr. Simpson. "He's out of touch."

Mr. Hoyer, 52, chairman of the Democratic Caucus and former state Senate president, is a deft political insider, renowned for keeping Maryland awash in federal funds. He has been a member of Congress since 1981.

In 1988, the congressman received a perfect score from the AFL-CIO for his votes. This year the Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a non-partisan education organization representing businesses, gave him an 11 percent rating for his votes, based on four national business rating scores.

The congressman could not be reached for comment, but his press secretary, Charles Seigel, said "Mr. Hoyer's record speaks for itself," adding that Prince George's voters see him as a "great congressman. We're convinced that the people of Southern Maryland will see that, too, should [the new district] occur."

A top Maryland Democrat, who did not want to be identified, said he doubted Mr. Simpson will run and said his "gunboat" rhetoric is an effort to keep Mr. Hoyer out of Charles County. Mr. Simpson brushed aside those claims.

Another political leader -- from Southern Maryland -- said such a primary matchup would be a tight contest. "That would be one interesting race. I'd say it would be close," said Sal Raspa, chairman of the St. Mary's County Democratic Central Committee.

Mr. Raspa said that, while the congressman's leadership role in the House would be important in the campaign, Mr. Simpson is "well-liked, well-known in the tri-county area."

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