News & Politics

Our People on Capitol Hill: Who’s Got Clout, Who’s Moving On?

Here’s what the area’s lawmakers bring to Congress—and to their constituents.


Senator John Warner

The 81-year-old Korean War vet, former Navy secretary, Elizabeth Taylor ex, and five-term Republican senator is calling it quits at the end of this term. A lion of the Senate, he’s respected on both sides of the aisle. Democrats—and angry conservatives—still remember it was Warner’s opposition to Ollie North’s Senate campaign of 1994 that kept the Iran-Contra figure from being elected in a year when nearly every other Republican won. When Warner speaks, everyone listens—including the White House. Former Virginia governors Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Jim Gilmore, a Republican, are vying for his seat.

Senator Jim Webb

The junior senator from Virginia, who ousted Republican incumbent George Allen in 2006, has come on strong from day one. A centrist darling of the Senate Democrats, the Reagan-administration Navy secretary proves that Democrats in Congress aren’t all crunchy lefties. His proposal to shorten the length of military tours is about the only thing congressional Democrats can agree on when it comes to Iraq.

Representative Frank Wolf (Northern Virginia: from McLean to Winchester)

The most senior member of Virginia’s House delegation, in Congress for 27 years, Wolf is quiet, diligent, willing to work on issues that don’t make headlines. A strong supporter of international religious and human rights, he’s in a good position to advance his views as the senior Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations. He also is a strong believer in transparency, posting on his Web site a list of all his House votes every year.

Representative Tom Davis (Northern Virginia: Fairfax, Prince William)

A canny pol, this former head of the National Republican Congressional Committee is taking a “sabbatical” and not seeking reelection to an eighth term. His GOP colleagues are sad to see him go because he was one of the few moderate Republicans who could hold the Northern Virginia seat, now being eyed by Democrats such as Fairfax County board chair Gerry Connolly. DC residents are sad because he’s been a fierce protector of the District’s interests and a strong advocate of voting rights. Davis could be back in four years—to challenge Senator Jim Webb.

Representative Jim Moran (Northern Virginia: Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax)

He can be a hard guy to love. With a fiery temper, Moran has threatened more than one colleague with bodily harm. And his often impolitic comments, such as those he made blaming the Iraq War on the influence of the Jewish community, often land him in hot water. But the Democrat evokes affection from colleagues and constituents who seem to appreciate a politician who doesn’t care what people think of him. A member of the Appropriations Committee, he’s been a strong ally of local high tech.


Senator Barbara Mikulski

The former Baltimore social worker is a staunch defender of local interests, whether it’s the Port of Baltimore, NASA Goddard, or the Chesapeake Bay. She hasn’t shown much appetite for the national stage, but that’s okay with her constituents. She’s known as “feisty” to her Democratic colleagues but sometimes scary to staffers. They routinely vote her “meanest” in The Washingtonian’s Best & Worst of Congress poll.

Senator Ben Cardin

His 20 successful years in the House, preceded by two decades as a Maryland delegate and House Speaker, helped Cardin shoo away more than a dozen other hopefuls and land the Senate seat vacated by Paul Sarbanes in 2006. Earnest, forthright, some might say boring (but in a good way), and a Democrat, he’s known as a master of bipartisan legislation, much of it relating to pension reform and retirement issues.

Representative Steny Hoyer (southern Maryland)

Second only to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in rank, Hoyer is the consummate politician/public servant. The youngest person to have served as president of the Maryland Senate, he’s been living and breathing politics for four decades—and it shows. When challenged in his bid to be House majority leader by the bearish John Murtha of Pennsylvania, he emerged victorious, not a hair out of place. Last year, he showered his constituents with more earmarks than nearly any other House member while still managing national issues and raucous House Democrats.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (Montgomery County, small parts of Prince George’s County)

If Rahm Emanuel didn’t already have the “wunderkind” mantle in the House, it would be Van Hollen’s. After five years in Congress, he’s a member of the House leadership as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, responsible for raising money to elect more Democrats, plus a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Often quoted in the media, he rarely flubs a line.

Representative Al Wynn (Prince George’s County, small parts of Montgomery County)

Some lawmakers are defined by who they were before they came to Congress (think Hillary Rodham Clinton). Wynn may be defined by how he departed. After losing the Democratic primary to Donna Edwards in February, the eight-term congressman quickly traded in his member pin for a lobbying job, forcing Maryland to hold a special election so his seat won’t be empty. Edwards, a community activist who’s expected the win easily, is poised to become the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress.

District of Columbia

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton

DC’s steadfast, hard-working delegate since 1990, Norton has led the charge to make DC a full congressional district with votes for its representative, even taking her case to Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Despite her lack of a floor vote, the Democrat has been able to move legislation in the House that’s related to the District.

Brad Fitch, CEO of Knowlegis, which produces Congressional Power Rankings, contributed to these profiles.

This article is from the June 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from the issue, click here.