District 6 Republican congressional candidate Amie Hoeber said Monday she continues to support the national Republican ticket headed by Donald Trump, notwithstanding her “dismay” over the revelation of an 11-year old video tape Friday in which Trump makes a series of lewd remarks about groping and forcing himself on women.
In a Facebook post late Saturday, Hoeber declared: “As a woman—and a candidate—I am offended by the remarks recently revealed that were made some years ago by Donald Trump. Having spent much of my professional life in a male-dominated world, I am, however, no stranger to being subjected to the attitude he expressed.”
But Hoeber—who, as deputy undersecretary of the Army during the Reagan administration, was one of the few high-ranking women in the Pentagon at that time—added: “The proper response is a rejection of the sexist abusive attitude. It is not, in my view, appropriate to respond by subjecting our great country to the damage it would suffer under a Hillary Clinton presidency.”
Her Facebook post did not directly address whether she continued to support Trump, and Hoeber—in a telephone interview with Bethesda Beat—declined to comment further other than saying, “I have always said that I would support the Republican ticket. I pledged that more than a year ago, and I’m an honorable person and I stick by my commitments.” Asked whether she still supports the Republican ticket, Hoeber replied, “Yes.”
The other high-profile Republican female candidate in this year’s Maryland general election, U.S. Senate nominee Kathy Szeliga, said in a statement late Friday, “I am appalled by Donald Trump’s comments. I raised my sons to never speak about women like this, and to defend women against just these kind of comments. Donald Trump should sincerely apologize to all women immediately.” Prior to Sunday night’s verbally bruising debate with Democratic nominee Clinton, Trump did issue a videotaped apology for his remarks.
A spokeswoman for Szeliga—who was trailing Democratic Senate nominee Chris Van Hollen by a wide margin in several recent independent polls—later said Szeliga still intends to vote for Trump next month. Both Hoeber’s and Szeliga’s position run counter to a number of leading Republicans across the country who have publicly abandoned support for Trump in the wake of The Washington Post’s Friday disclosure of the tape, in which Trump is heard to make a number of lewd comments.
In District 6, Hoeber is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. John Delaney, a fellow Potomac resident, in a district that extends from Potomac and Gaithersburg more than 200 miles through Maryland’s western panhandle. The contest is widely regarded as the only competitive congressional contest in Maryland this year, although Delaney last week released a poll commissioned by his campaign showing him with a lead of 24 points.
Hoeber, while not disclosing any of her campaign’s internal survey results, Monday dismissed Delaney’s pollster, Washington-based Garin-Hart-Young Research Group as “as a polling company that has been discredited in the past—so I’m not inclined to pay any attention.” No independent public opinion surveys have been conducted in the District 6 race.
In recent appeals to female voters during her appearances in Montgomery County, Hoeber has emphasized a background that includes helping to found two chapters of the National Women’s Political Caucus as well as service on the board of the House of Ruth, an area organization that provides shelter for abused women. At the same time, her reluctance to expand significantly on her Facebook statement about Trump’s remarks appears to reflect a political balancing act in the diverse 6th District.
While half of the district’s voters reside in Democratic-dominated Montgomery County, the portion of the district to the west—particularly Washington, Allegany, and Garrett counties—are dominated by Republicans, and pro-Trump sentiment in these areas appears to remain strong. Hoeber must do well in these counties if she is to have a shot at ousting Delaney: A strong turnout in the western part of the district almost cost Delaney the seat in 2014, although he is expected to be boosted this year by a larger Democratic voter turnout typical in Maryland during a presidential election year.
In contrast, the Republican woman seeking re-election in the Washington area’s other competitive congressional race this year—Virginia’s 10th District—this weekend joined a number of other GOP elected officials across the country in urging that Trump be replaced at the top of the Republican ticket.
“This is disgusting, vile, and disqualifying,” Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock said of Trump’s remarks. “No woman should ever be subjected to this type of obscene behavior and it is unbecoming of anybody seeking high office. In light of these comments, Donald Trump should step aside and allow our party to replace him with Mike Pence or another appropriate nominee from the Republican Party.”
In a statement, Comstock added, “I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump and I would never vote for Hillary Clinton.” According to the Post, Comstock prior to Friday had declined to endorse or repudiate Trump, and had not said for whom she would vote this year.
The Trump controversy surfaced as recent disclosures show Maryland USA, a pro-Hoeber Super PAC, spending heavily in the closing weeks of the 2016 general election campaign.
According to filings with the Federal Election Commission over the past couple of weeks, Maryland USA has spent nearly $288,000 on direct mail promoting Hoeber and attacking Delaney, along with just under $80,000 on digital advertising.
The latest FEC filings do not appear to reflect nearly $155,000 spent by Maryland USA on broadcast ads on WRC/Channel 4, according to the public inspection Web site of the Federal Communications Commission. Maryland USA is almost entirely funded by Hoeber’s husband, telecommunications executive Mark Epstein, who has donated $2.4 million to the committee over the past year. Unlike candidate campaign committees, Super PACs are permitted to accept unlimited donations from individuals.
The FCC site also shows Delaney’s personal campaign committee, Friends of John Delaney, spending more than $210,000 for TV advertising during the same period on the four Washington area broadcast stations, with about half of this spending concentrated on WRC. A full accounting of spending for the third quarter of 2016 by both Delaney and Hoeber’s personal campaign committees, as well as Maryland USA, is due to be filed with the FEC this weekend.
If Hoeber and Szeliga were seeking to distance themselves from Trump, another Maryland Republican congressional candidate exhibited no reluctance about continuing to embrace the party’s presidential nominee.
Dan Cox, the party’s nominee in the 8th District—which is based in Montgomery County but also includes portions of Frederick and Carroll counties—declared via Twitter immediately following Sunday’s debate: “Trump totally destroyed Hillary in the debate tonight. It wasn’t even remotely close. I’m surprised she stayed on stage.”
Earlier, Cox, a Frederick County attorney, tweeted: “Biggest roar from crowd: when Trump responded to Hillary’s fright of him controlling the law with ‘because you’d be in jail’.”
State Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, the 8th Democratic nominee and a prohibitive favorite to win next month’s election to succeed Van Hollen, sought to capitalize on Cox’s remarks in a fundraising email sent out late Saturday.
“I just returned from a candidate forum at Mount St. Mary’s University in Westminster where my Republican opponent proudly wore his Donald Trump for President sticker before a coed audience of college students and forgave Trump his sickening trespasses against women,” charged Raskin. “Anti-choice, anti-environment, pro-NRA, cynical climate change deniers—Donald Trump and my opponent are peas in a pod.”