Former Obama official enters race for Van Hollen's seat

Joel Rubin, a former State Department official, is seeking a seat up for grabs in Maryland.

A former State Department official and vocal supporter of President Barack Obama's foreign policy announced Monday he is entering the crowded field of Democrats hoping to capture Rep. Chris Van Hollen's seat next year.

Joel Rubin, a Chevy Chase resident who runs a foreign policy consulting shop called Washington Strategy Group, told reporters he is confident he can distinguish himself from other candidates who have been seeking endorsements -- and campaign donations -- for months.

"This is a wide open race," said Rubin, touting what he described as a "progressive track record of success."

Rubin was the founding political and government affairs director at J Street, a pro-Israel group that takes a more liberal approach to Middle East policy than its better known counterpart, AIPAC. In July he left his position as a deputy assistant secretary in the State Department, where he served as a liaison to the House of Representatives.

Rubin, 44, captured national attention, particularly drawing fire from conservatives, for a testy exchange this year with the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Gowdy was pressing the State Department for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails and other documents related to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya.

There's a large field of candidates running for the 8th Congressional District, including former WJLA anchor Kathleen Matthews, state Sen. Jamie Raskin and Dels. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez, former Obama administration aide Will Jawando and an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, David M. Anderson.

The district is based in Montgomery County, but it also includes portions of Frederick and Carroll counties. The seat is widely considered safe for Democrats in the general election.

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