Donald J. Devine, the conservative personnel director in the early years of the Reagan administration, yesterday launched a campaign to unseat Maryland's powerful 5th District congressman, Democrat Steny H. Hoyer.
Kicking off his candidacy with stops in Lanham and Annapolis, Mr. Devine laced into Mr. Hoyer -- the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives -- for being a "tax-and-spend" liberal. He also vowed to reform Congress, which he said has lost touch with the values of the people.
"I'm running because I think our government is in a crisis," Mr. Devine said. "Congress is not responding to what the people want. We have to take our government back."
In what he said will be a consistent campaign theme, Mr. Devine said federal taxes are already high enough. In his seventh term in Congress, Mr. Hoyer doesn't have the discipline to live within the government's means, Mr. Devine charged.
Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Mr. Hoyer, declined to comment.
As head of the federal civil service, Mr. Devine led the Reagan administration's reduction of the civilian federal work force by nearly 10 percent, an action that angered federal employees and unions.
"A lot of federal employees feel that at least everybody knew where I stood. I was fair," he said yesterday.
Mr. Devine, 57, has been active in Maryland politics off and on for many years. His last run for office came in 1978, when party loyalty put him on the ballot against popular Democratic state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein.
A resident of Shady Side in southern Anne Arundel County, Mr. Devine ran Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign in Maryland and was appointed to head the Office of Personnel Management after Mr. Reagan's victory. He left that post in 1985 and served for two years as head of U.S. Sen. Bob Dole's political action committee.
Mr. Devine now works as a columnist for various publications and runs a political consulting firm.
He immediately becomes the favorite in the Sept. 13 Republican primary over two little-known candidates. But he would face a difficult race against Mr. Hoyer in the November general election, according to political consultant and pollster Keith Haller, head of Potomac Survey Research of Bethesda.
"You can make the case that Hoyer's part of the Washington establishment, which would appeal to people caught up in the anti-establishment, anti-Congress syndrome," Mr. Haller said. "But Devine is certainly not a new player on the block. He's very much part of the Washington establishment."
In 1992, the first time Mr. Hoyer had to run for re-election in the newly redrawn 5th District, he won with 53 percent of the vote against Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and an independent candidate.
Mr. Hogan beat the congressman in four of five counties, but lost badly on Mr. Hoyer's home turf of Prince George's, which has nearly 50 percent of the district's population. The 5th District occupies all of Calvert, St. Mary's and Charles counties in addition to parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.
Mr. Devine said he has raised more than $50,000 in only a few weeks, much of it from out-of-state contributors. He said he hopes to raise $500,000 for the race, which he said will not come close to matching Mr. Hoyer's funds.