|U.S. Rep. Connie Morella (Republican)|
This November, Congresswoman Connie Morella will face her toughest political battle to date -- the fight to win her ninth consecutive term in the House. It's a skirmish that's gained national interest and importance, since Morella tops the list of seats the Democrats need to win if they stand a chance of regaining control of the House of Representatives.
An independent voting record and dedication to constituency services has kept Morella's career going in a district that tends to heavily back Democrats in presidential elections. That trend was especially evident in the 2000 presidential race: Morella's district voted for Democrat Al Gore by the largest percentage of any other district represented by a Republican.
Morella was raised a Democrat in the blue-collar town of Somerville, Mass. She became a Republican after meeting her husband, a lawyer who worked for moderate Republicans like New York Mayor John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller. He also worked for Charles Mathias, Jr. a former senator and civil rights champion who once represented Morella's current district.
Before becoming a member of Congress, Morella served in the Maryland House of Delegates for eight years. From 1970 to 1985, she was a professor of English at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland.
Morella and her husband, Tony, have three grown children. They also raised six children left after Morella's sister died from cancer.
Now a 71-year-old Montgomery County resident, Morella is pro-choice, anti-gun and pro-environment. She voted for government-funded contraception coverage, the legalization of medical marijuana and needle exchange programs for drug addicts.
During her work on the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, the House Science Committee and the Congressional Caucus of Women's Issues, Morella has fought for women's issues and has amassed one of the most liberal voting records of any Republican in the House.
Part of Morella's appeal is her focus on local issues and her reputation as a tireless advocate for her constituents. In her 16 years in Congress, her staffers say they have helped more than 45,000 8th District residents in need. The congresswoman often answers letters personally and has been known to call voters' homes to explain her views.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Morella described her political philosophy as "opportunity, civil rights, individual liberties . I believe we've got to give opportunities to people to help themselves. And respect for the individual."
Since the Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Democratic challengers have criticized Morella for failing to stand up to the more conservative wing of her party.
In the upcoming election, Morella's Democratic challenger, Maryland State Senator Christopher Van Hollen, will argue the congresswoman is a luxury Democrats cannot afford if they want to stop the Bush administration from pushing its agenda through a Republican-controlled House.
--By Leah Clapman, Online NewsHour