Keeping competitive in Maryland's 8th District, which encompasses many of the state's suburbs surrounding Washington, is even more difficult because of the cost of television advertising in the pricey Washington media market. In 2002, when Van Hollen won the seat, he first had to defeat Kennedy family member Mark Shriver in the nation's most expensive congressional primary that year.
The five candidates already running are: state Sen. Jamie Raskin, a popular figure in progressive circles; state Del. Kumar Barve, a leader among Indian-American elected officials; state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, who's connected in the Latino community; Will Jawando, who worked in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill; and Kathleen Matthews, a former television news anchor and ex-Marriott executive who's married to MSNBC's Chris Matthews.
For now, Raskin and Matthews are seen as early front-runners in the crowded field. But there’s confidence that other candidates could rise, especially if strong donor bases lift them. Some outside groups, ranging from EMILY’s List to Latino organizations, are looking to get involved, potentially adding wild cards to the race.
The seat became open in March, the result of Sen. Barbara Mikulski's unexpected retirement, which set off a down-ballot scramble in the state. The 8th District field will likely grow in coming days, when former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, a Democrat, is expected to hop in.
Much attention has been heaped on Matthews' likely base of supporters, given her and her husband's deep network of Democratic donors and allies in Washington. For nearly a decade, she was the chief global communications and public affairs officer for Marriott, another potentially lucrative source of support. She's also built up prominence from her long career as a television reporter.
"She comes in with a formidable presence outside of Montgomery County for raising money," said Darrell Anderson, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee chair. "And you're going to have to have money for this race."
But Matthews isn't the only candidate who could have wide reach beyond the district.
Raskin, a leader of the state Senate's liberal wing, is popular among progressives, especially for leading floor flights for legislation such as the marriage-equality law and the repeal of the death penalty. The son of prominent liberal activist Marcus Raskin, he's expected to pull in money from grassroots supporters, possibly in the form of many small-dollar donations. As a law professor at American University, he also could draw support from the legal community.
Like Raskin, Barve also has a long track record in Annapolis. In his bid, he's been heavily courting fellow Indian-Americans, who accounted for roughly three-fourths of his roughly $66,000 haul the first fundraising quarter. (At the time of the report filing, Barve was the only declared candidate to raise money in the district.)