Dozens of state environmental leaders endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen's campaign for Senate on Monday, noting the Democrat's long record of "getting things done" on the issue in Annapolis and Washington.
Standing on City Dock in Annapolis with the Severn River behind them, the group repeatedly touted Van Hollen's past legislative achievements, part of the campaign's effort to highlight not only his progressive stances but also a record of passing bills into law.
"Everybody here is united by a common purpose -- and that is to take action to get things done," Van Hollen said. "It's one thing for legislators to vote in a way that reflects our priorities and values...it's another thing to work together to actually get things done."
The environment is not likely to be a significant factor in the Senate race because Van Hollen and his opponent, Rep. Donna F. Edwards, agree on most, if not all, environmental issues pending in Washington. Edwards also has a close relationship with many green groups, having previously served on the board of the League of Conservation Voters.
But the event did at least two things for Van Hollen: It allowed him to get out front on an issue important to many progressives, and it also reaffirmed a narrative that is by now well established in the state's marquee political contest.
Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, is running as a progressive pragmatist who is trying to distinguish himself from Edwards in part by pointing to his ability to tap into relationships and advance legislation based on his beliefs. Driving that theme home on Monday, speakers used the term "getting things done" or "gets results" at least eight times.
Edwards, of Prince George's County, is stressing her stalwartly liberal positions -- while questioning Van Hollen's progressive bona fides -- and is running what the campaign describes as a "grass roots" effort. With fewer endorsements from elected leaders, Edwards has been able to cast herself more as an outsider candidate despite five terms in Congress.
Still, Edwards isn't conceding "getting things done" to Van Hollen.
"Donna has a proven record of standing up for Maryland's environment," spokesman Benjamin F. Gerdes said in a statement. "Just last year, she led the fight for legislation that reauthorized the 18-year-old Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration Program and the Poplar Island Expansion Program, and guaranteed full access to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, ensuring that the Port of Baltimore remains an economic engine for the state of Maryland. These results reflect a laser like focus on environmental stewardship."
The two are running for the seat currently held by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who is retiring in 2017.
Environmentalists standing with Van Hollen on Monday included Marcia Verploegen Lewis, chair of the board of directors of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters; J. Charles "Chuck" Fox, former secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Parris N. Glendening; and Cindy Schwartz, former executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.
All of the participants stressed they were endorsing Van Hollen personally, not on behalf of their organizations.
The speakers noted Van Hollen's effort as a lawmaker in the General Assembly to stop slant drilling the Chesapeake Bay, and his work in Congress to push for additional funding for the bay in the 2008 farm bill, among other measures.
Van Hollen has a 98 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, despite the fact that the group endorsed his opponent, Republican incumbent Rep. Constance A. Morella, when he first ran for the House in 2002. The group has subsequently backed Van Hollen.
Edwards has a 96 percent score from the group.
"We're all here because we've been in the trenches with Chris," said Cindy Schwartz, a former executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. "Above all else, he gets the job done."