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An anonymous group of Northern Virginia residents has begun a campaign to draft Pentagon official André Hollis (R) to run for the seat of 8th district Democratic Rep. Jim Moran.

The group, calling itself Friends of the Eighth District, sent out a news release Tuesday announcing that it has reviewed all of the candidates who have expressed interest in challenging Moran and has “unanimously” selected Hollis.

“The Committee reviewed and met with Mr. Hollis and his family and found that he would be our first choice to run against and BEAT Jim Moran,” the release stated.

The group plans to spend the next few weeks fundraising to support the hypothetical campaign of Hollis, who has told the committee that he is still seriously considering a bid but is currently focused on his duties at the Pentagon.

Hollis, 37, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for counternarcotics, is prohibited from running for partisan political office under the Hatch Act. He testified Tuesday before the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on financial management, the budget and international security.

It is not clear how many people comprise the committee seeking to recruit Hollis or what their political affiliation is, but they do not appear to be linked to the district’s GOP leadership.

“To the best of my knowledge this was not in any way affiliated with” the 8th district Republican Committee, said one well-placed Virginia Republican.

An e-mail seeking further information about the group was not returned Tuesday.

Hollis, who is black, could be an appealing candidate for Republicans, who face long odds in the heavily Democratic district. Moran took 60 percent of the vote against an underfunded Republican challenger last year.

“Many friends and supporters are encouraging me to run for the 8th district,” Hollis said in March. “In recent days, I have had discussions with the White House and local and state party officials in Virginia. Clearly, the 8th district desperately needs effective leadership we can be proud of.”

Prior to working at the Pentagon, Hollis served as senior counsel for the House Government Reform Committee under then-Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and as counsel at the House Commerce Committee. He has also worked as a trial attorney and lobbyist; he holds a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Several other Republicans have expressed interest in running for the heavily Democratic seat, including Capitol Police Officer Mike Riccardi and 27-year-old Melissa Martin, the director of a D.C.-based nonprofit.

Moran is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kate Hanley and attorney Andy Rosenberg. At least two other Democrats are also seriously considering getting in the race.

The seven-term lawmaker has previously faced questions about loans he received from lobbyists and companies whose priorities he later supported, and, more recently, he faced a barrage of criticism after insinuating that Jews were pushing the country to war with Iraq.

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