Shriver backs Van Hollen for Congress in 8th District


Mark. K. Shriver, who lost the 8th District congressional primary despite once leading in polls, endorsed yesterday the winner, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., campaigned with him, and wrote him a $1,000 check.

Shriver, 38, officially endorsed Van Hollen, 43, at a news conference held in a Prince George's County classroom used for after-school care. An instructional sign on the cinderblock wall urges pupils to "Use Kind Words" and "Help When You Can."

And that's precisely what Shriver did. He spoke kind words about Van Hollen and offered to help when he could - politically, that is.

His endorsement is more than symbolic because Shriver captured 34,471 votes (41 percent) and key labor endorsements that Van Hollen hopes to inherit as he challenges Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella in the November election.

"I said for eight months that I was going to help out the nominee, and I'm sticking to my word," Shriver said.

The other Democrats in the primary - former Clinton administration trade negotiator Ira Shapiro and lawyer Deborah Vollmer - also showed up to support Van Hollen.

National Democrats have targeted the district in their bid to assume control of the House of Representatives, where they need swing of six seats to knock the GOP into the minority.

But winning the seat won't be easy. Morella has represented the Montgomery County-dominated district since 1986 and has about $1.7 million in campaign cash on hand.

Showing his pedigree, Shriver went beyond what Van Hollen might have expected in campaign assistance.

In addition to writing the check from his campaign account, Shriver, who surrendered his seat in the House of Delegates to run for Congress, rose early yesterday and joined Van Hollen in greeting commuters at the Silver Spring Metro stop during the morning rush hour.

It was a campaign routine both had performed often during the primary, but never together.

The present and former candidates stood side by side in their dark suits, extending their hands to travelers heading for trains. Many who stopped to notice the two together seemed pleased at the display of political sportsmanship.

"Great race - thanks for keeping us together," said a man who stopped to shake Shriver's hand. "Have a great decade. Have a great life," a woman said, smiling at Shriver.

But the exercise couldn't have been easy for Shriver. A woman at the Metro stop seemed to want to support him in the general election - though he was eliminated Tuesday. "I'm out of it, I'm out of it," he told her, smiling. "I lost."

Shriver raised $2.5 million and, according to polls, led Van Hollen - although not by much - for much of the contest. Van Hollen, a liberal, two-term state senator passionately backed by a small army of environmentalists and gun-safety advocates, seemed to gain momentum after capturing several large newspaper endorsements.

Shriver complained near the end of the campaign that Van Hollen was distorting his record in Annapolis. Asked about those accusations yesterday, Shriver told reporters: "What we're talking about is the future. I don't look back."

Shriver said he's not sure what he will do next, but said he had some ideas. He declined to be specific.

Meanwhile, Morella has been accusing Democrats in Annapolis of unfairly redrawing the boundary lines during congressional redistricting to make the district harder for her to win. "They tried to bully Connie Morella into retirement," said a promotional message announcing a Morella campaign event last night to rally her supporters.

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