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Rep. Steny H. Hoyer reads the same polls as everyone else, and he knows that if Americans were casting ballots today, Democrats would get hammered.
President Biden’s job-approval numbers aren’t just mediocre, they’re in Trump territory. And the electorate appears ready to shift congressional power to the Republicans in 2022.
“Clearly, Americans are worried about inflation. Rightfully so,” Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged in an interview. “It’s an issue we need to deal with.”
Despite the bleak atmospherics, the lawmaker expressed confidence that Democrats can avoid devastating losses next November. He pointed to the COVID-19 relief aid Democrats approved last year and to the measures they approved since winning the White House last November.
“We kept America out of a recession,” said Hoyer, who is the House majority leader. “We kept — in large part — families from falling through the cracks. And we [provided] substantial assistance to the pharmaceutical companies and to the health community.”
On Monday, Hoyer filed for re-election. The 82-year-old dean of the Maryland congressional delegation hopes the residents of Southern Maryland and Prince George’s County return him for what would be his 21st full term.
“I’m running again because I think that I can continue to play a very positive role in leading us to respond to the challenges we have in a robust and effective way,” he said.
The redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly last week keeps Hoyer’s district largely intact. Running from Southern Maryland up toward his alma mater, the University of Maryland College Park, the 5th District leans heavily Democratic.
Mckayla Wilkes, a progressive activist who challenged Hoyer in 2020, and Elaine Belson, a clinical social worker and former congressional aide, have filed to run against him in the June 28 Democratic primary. Chris Palombi (R), a former U.S. Capitol Police officer who ran unsuccessfully against Hoyer in 2020, picking up 31% of the vote, has also filed. Other candidates could get in now that the contours of the district are known.
Hoyer released a lengthy list of endorsements from state legislators and county leaders — a list that includes Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks, Prince George’s State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy, Prince George’s County Council Chair Calvin S. Hawkins II and Charles County Commission President Reuben B. Collins II.
Hoyer had just over $1 million in his campaign account in late September, when candidates last had to file fundraising updates.
Although political strategists in both parties say 2022 is shaping up to be a rough year for Democrats, Hoyer expressed optimism that vaccination rates will continue to increase, inflation will taper off as supply chain issues ease, and that the Senate will follow the House in approving Biden’s Build Back Better legislation.
“I think six months from now the political scenario is going to be much more positive,” he said.
Part of the party’s trouble, some pollsters argue, is an over-focus on cultural issues that appear unrelated to the day-to-day concerns of working Americans. Other strategists reject that view, saying that a focus on equity issues is overdue — and directly tied to the economic challenges workers face.
Hoyer signaled he’s well aware of the tension between the two camps. He maintains that legislation championed by Democrats — from paycheck protection to massive aid to states and counties — has helped keep people in their jobs and homes.
“All these bills related directly to the daily economic well-being of families and people in the United States, not on the social issues,” he said, adding, “We need to educate them about it.”