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Kathleen Matthews enters race for Maryland's 8th District

Kathleen Matthews enters race for Maryland's 8th District
Kathleen Matthews meets with a voter in Silver Spring.

Touting her background as a "working mom" and "progressive business leader," Kathleen Matthews entered the race for Maryland's 8th Congressional District on Wednesday -- an announcement that could shake up the contest for the open seat.

The longtime television news anchor and former Marriott executive zipped through a list of progressive policies she said she would pursue if elected, including an increase in the minimum wage, pay equity for women, closing gaps in education and supporting Social Security and Medicare.

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"I'm willing to do the hard work that it takes to actually take important ideas to this U.S. Congress," Matthews said in front of about a half dozen cameras at the Silver Spring Metro station in the comfortable, smooth voice of a veteran television reporter.

"I have spent a lifetime shattering the glass ceiling, advocating for women and children."

Matthews, a 61-year-old Chevy Chase resident who is married to MSNBC personality Chris Matthews, spent 15 years as an anchor at WJLA-TV before joining the Bethesda-based Marriott International as chief global communications and public affairs officer. She has left the company in order to focus on her run for Congress.

She joins Sen. Jamie Raskin, Dels. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez as well as former White House aide Will Jawando in the race for the Democratic nomination. The seat is being left open by incumbent Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Barve welcomed Matthews to the race in a statement. "Vigorous debate is healthy and over the course of the coming months we will all be interested in learning about Ms. Matthews' views," he said.

After years on television, Matthews may be as well known as the state elected officials who have announced campaigns. Both she and Chris Matthews are presumably connected to a wide swath of Democrats -- and Democratic donors -- both in Montgomery County and nationally.

She has already received more attention from media inside the Beltway than her competitors.

On the other hand, Matthews has never run for office before, and she will need to distinguish herself from other candidates with better known track records in Annapolis and strong geographic bases of support in their own legislative districts.

"I was inspired by a local congressman where I went to college who fought against the Vietnam War, who looked at the incumbent president, Richard Nixon, and looked at the corruption that was going on and fought for his impeachment," the Stanford graduate said of why she came to the region from California decades ago.

Asked who that congressman was, Matthews named Pete McCloskey, a Republican who ran against Nixon in 1972. In 2007, McCloskey switched parties and became a Democrat.

Matthews has faced some criticism for a $2,600 contribution she made to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri in 2014. She defended that donation Wednesday by noting her far more extensive support for Democrats. Though the donation will undoubtedly be raised by opponents, it's not an insurmountable issue. Rep. John Delaney of Potomac, for instance, had given money to Republicans before announcing his campaign in 2012.

Matthews demurred on a question about whether she will invest her own money in the race, saying that she "hopes to raise my money from the people who support me." She said she has already met with Emily's List, the Washington-based group that helps to elect -- and raise money for -- Democratic women who support abortion rights, and that she is hoping for that group's endorsement.

The seat is widely considered safe for Democrats, though it was redrawn by state lawmakers in 2011 to include more GOP voters. Still, Van Hollen beat Republican Dave Wallace in the 2014 general with more than 60 percent of the vote.

"I have a lot of energy," said Matthews, who is planning to campaign at events and a fundraiser on Wednesday. "I hope to spend many days like this day today."

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Asked if Chris Matthews had offered any advice, Kathleen Matthews had a quick answer: "He said, 'smile.'"

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