(Photo: Courtesy of Charles Lollar)
When Charles Lollar, a Maryland businessman and Marine Corps Reserve officer, who also happens to be Black and Republican, challenged Rep. Steny Hoyer in 2010, he was a self-described Tea Party candidate.
On Tuesday, Lollar formally launched a bid to become Maryland's next governor with a statewide bus tour and a message he hopes will appeal to voters of all ideological stripes.
"I'm very proud that I don't have to change my message just because the audience changes," Lollar told BET.com at the end of his first day on the campaign trail.
His platform is simple: Maryland needs a leader who will be honest, who can bring business back to the state and will extend a helping hand to those who need it most. He also is calling for lower taxes and is a strong proponent of school choice.
"We should not allow the state and federal government to take 38 cents of every dollar we raise and should demand better. If a child is going to a school that's struggling to achieve academic excellence, parents ought to have the power to use their money to put their child in any school they choose," Lollar said.
But as even he acknowledges, he faces an uphill battle in fundraising and building support in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin.
And, as he also conceded, the GOP brand has suffered in recent years in part because of self-inflicted wounds, from outlandish comments about rape and conception to failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney's gaffe about 47 percent of Americans being happily dependent on government services.
Still, Lollar is optimistic. Though his 2010 challenge to Hoyer, then House majority leader, failed, he won nearly 35 percent of the vote, which he believes was an impressive showing against the Democrats' number two leader. A group of Democratic business people who call themselves "Patriots for Lollar," he said, aren't willing to switch sides but have pledged to do all they can to help his candidacy because they believe in his agenda.
Lollar hopes that his campaign theme, "Achieve the Dream," will help voters across the state believe in what he describes as a message of social equality and financial independence.
"I want people to dream of a state that brings in business, brings unemployment to less than 4 percent and where a city like Baltimore City can turn from a homicide capital to a manufacturing center," Lollar said.
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