SILVER SPRING, Md. — The race to succeed Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen in Maryland’s 8th District became even more crowded Wednesday, when former Marriott executive and news anchor Kathleen Matthews announced her candidacy.
“I have spent a lifetime shattering the glass ceiling, advocating for women and children in all of my career work as well as being a strong fighter for human dignity, opportunity, as well as equality,” Matthews said outside the Silver Spring Metro station. “And those are the values that I want to bring to the U.S. Congress.” Matthews greeted commuters on the misty gray morning before her announcement, shaking hands and letting them know she’s running for Congress. She planned to spend her first day on the campaign trail visiting a senior center and a local market in Rockville, and hosting a fundraiser.
The 61-year-old was a veteran anchor for ABC News affiliate WJLA before joining Marriott, where she worked as an executive vice president and chief of global communications and public affairs. Matthews is the fifth Democratic candidate in the race, joining several state lawmakers and one former White House aide.
Van Hollen’s decision to run for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., opened the floodgates for Democrats to join the race for his House seat, but Matthews did not appear fazed by the crowded field or the fact she is facing seasoned state legislators.
“I think there are lots of kinds of experience that you can bring to a race like this. And I bring experience of 25 years really reporting on this area, understanding this area, meeting with people, hearing their concerns,” Matthews said. “And I also bring nearly a decade of experience with one of the leading employers here in the region and really advancing … a progressive agenda.“
In addition to the name recognition from her time as a local news anchor, she also has a high-profile husband: MSNBC television personality Chris Matthews, a former top aide for the late Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, D-Mass., who has flirted with runs for national office himself at times.
Chris Matthews, who hosts the nightly MSNBC program “Hardball,” assured his viewers in March that if his wife decided to run, he would “continue to fully disclose my relationship, which I never denied, with her as part of our commitment here at MSNBC to be transparent and fair in our coverage.” Asked if her husband gave her any advice for her campaign announcement, Kathleen Matthews replied, “He said, ‘Smile.’”
Her name was among the dozen mentioned as potential contenders for the House seat and her candidacy appeared imminent in May, after The Washington Post reported she was leaving her job at Marriott to pursue “public service.”
The other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination include Del. Kumar Barve, former majority leader in the House of Delegates; state Sen. Jamie Raskin, the Senate majority whip; Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, and Will Jawando, a former aide in President Barack Obama’s administration and congressional aide.
The race has already garnered some congressional attention, with Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., the only Indian-American in Congress, endorsing Barve, the first Indian-American elected to a state legislature, in mid-April. Raskin has already racked up a lengthy list of endorsements from local and state officials.
Asked about Raskin’s endorsements, Matthews said, “I hope to get endorsements from the majority of the voters in this region.” But she also noted she has met with EMILY’S List, which endorses female candidates who support abortion rights, and hopes to secure their endorsement.
Matthews will also have the help of veteran Democratic strategist Anita Dunn, who served as an Obama campaign adviser and was White House communications director in his first term. Her campaign manager, Ethan Susseles, is an 8th District native who most recently managed retired Gen. Irv Halter’s unsuccessful bid to unseat GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado’s 5th District.
More candidates could jump into the race, though they do have some time to make their decision with a January filing deadline. The candidates are just less than a year away from the Democratic primary, which is set for April.
The race is rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
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