Van Hollen camp disputes turnout allegation in book

Rep. Chris Van Hollen.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Van Hollen's campaign on Tuesday denied allegations raised in a new a book about the 2016 presidential election that he urged unions to not aggressively turn out the state's African American vote because it would help his Democratic primary opponent.

The book, "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign," suggests Van Hollen sought to put the brakes on union-centered black turnout efforts and that Clinton dismissed the idea.


At the time, Van Hollen was running against former Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who is black, for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat left open by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's retirement. Clinton, meanwhile, was running in the state's primary against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — though neither candidate campaigned heavily in Maryland.

"Who gives a f--- about Chris Van Hollen?" Clinton asked one of her aides after a campaign event in Baltimore, according to the book. "What the f--- are we going to do to fix this?"


A higher African American turnout, many believed, would help Edwards and Clinton. Edwards did ultimately outperform Van Hollen with black voters in the state's primary, but exit polling showed Van Hollen captured more than one-third of the black electorate — better than some had predicted.

The book, written by The Hill's Amie Parnes and Sidewire's Jonathan Allen, says a Clinton aide promised to relay the former secretary of state's message to the state's unions.

A Van Hollen aide said the campaign "categorically denies this charge."

Van Hollen, a former Montgomery County congressman who bested Edwards by more than 14 points, spent a significant amount of time trying to reach black voters in the state with advertising. He sought and touted the early endorsements of black leaders — including the executives of Prince George's and Montgomery counties — and ran several campaign ads on black radio stations.

Van Hollen also ran television ads in the Baltimore media market featuring prominent African American women, including state lawmakers such as Sen. Delores Kelley of Baltimore County.

One of the state's most politically engaged unions, 1199SEIU, paid for a TV ad attacking Edwards that was broadcast weeks before the primary. The union, which represents 9,000 health care workers in the state, also spent money on mail and canvassing, according to disclosure.

The group's "members worked tirelessly with the Van Hollen campaign to turn out African Americans in Baltimore and across the state," Lisa Brown, executive vice president of 1199SEIU Maryland/DC said in a statement. "1199SEIU and other unions stood with the majority of African American state leaders who endorsed Chris Van Hollen because he was the best candidate."

Clinton made only one appearance in Maryland ahead of the April 26 primary, visiting Baltimore for a rally and to pick up the endorsement of Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in April 10. Public polls prior to that visit put Clinton up by double digits, and all but three had her more than 20 points ahead.

Clinton ultimately beat Sanders in Maryland by 29 points.

Edwards declined to comment through a spokesman.


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