“Maryland’s not so big until you have to travel it just about every day,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar on the campaign trail recently.
Lollar is crisscrossing the state to get his message out (and raise money) ahead of the primary election on June 24th (early voting begins June 12th).
In appearances, Lollar talks about his family, his service as a Marine Corps officer and business experience as manager of the Landover facility of uniform company CINTAS. But on a recent Wednesday, the small business owners he met in Anne Arundel County were most interested in his economic proposals, such as phasing out the personal income tax over five years. After saying that Maryland would be more like Florida and Texas, one attendee visibly perked up. “That’s the first smile I’ve got out of him all day,” Lollar joked. He says he would make up for the lost revenue by limiting the growth of state government.
Lollar often mentions Art Laffer’s endorsement of his ideas. Laffer is a former Reagan advisor known for supply-side economics – the theory that lower taxes will generally increase economic growth. Another proposal of his is to sell health insurance across state lines, despite its complications. “It may take 2 years, it may take 4 years, it may take 6 years,” he said at a GOP candidates’ forum at St. Mary’s College. “But you know what, another question I’d ask is, how long [do you] think it’s going to take before this Affordable Health Care Act [works]?”
St. Mary’s College political science professor Michael Cain has seen Lollar in action several times in the past few years. Lollar is from neighboring Charles County, where he chaired the GOP Central Committee. He also ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Steny Hoyer in 2010. Lollar “has a particular viewpoint, [a political] viewpoint,” Cain said, “but he very much enjoys interacting with people…and a lot of people respond to that.”
As a statewide candidate, Lollar talks a lot about the evils of partisanship. “It is the new segregation of our age,” he said in an interview. “It won't be long, if we don’t stop this madness, there'll be Democrats water fountains on the left side and Republican water fountains on the right side.”
In a bipartisan move, Lollar has campaigned in Baltimore City, despite the small number of Republican voters there. It’s a general election strategy that GOP candidates have to play in the primaries, according to former Lt. Gov. and national GOP chairman Michael Steele. “Members of the black community are watching you as a candidate,” said Steele, who is black. “They want to see how authentic you are...[That’s] true for all candidates but [it’s] notched up a level for a black candidate.”
Though Lollar’s charisma is attractive to voters in both parties, the odds for winning are long. In the latest St. Mary’s poll, Lollar’s support did not break four percent of registered Republicans. In a state where Democrats so consistently dominate, the obvious question is, why run?
“I've taught my daughters that integrity is what you do when no one's looking,” he said. “For me to run away and just say, you know what? I’m [going to] keep my cushy executive job, I’ll be fine, let somebody else worry about it? When I believe that I can make the kind of difference needed at this time? I just couldn’t turn my back on it.”
For his part, Michael Steele said that a candidate does need to be careful. “You don’t want to be the perennial candidate who always loses…because you don’t get that many bites at the apple in Maryland, Democrat or Republican.”