Greater party solidarity and increased voter turnout is necessary for the Democrats to win the upcoming presidential election, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md., LAW ’90) in a speech Tuesday at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Accepting the annual Excellence in Public Service Award, given annually by the Georgetown Law Democrats, Van Hollen emphasized the importance of the candidates doing more to mobilize voters in his address, which was broadcast on C-Span.

“The increasing negative tone is worrisome in our presidential democratic campaign,” he said. “This will impact House races in tight districts if it does not change. Whoever the loser is in this campaign must engage supporters for the democratic nominee and work hard for the party.”

Van Hollen, who is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it is time for the candidates to overcome their differences and turn their attention toward the opposition.

“Each candidate is focusing on one another and the difference between them,” he said. “They need to focus on [Sen.] John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the policy difference and core issues – Iraq, national security – because he is a continuation of Bush, his economic policy is a rubber-stamp of the Bush administration.”

He added that there will be increased efforts to choose a candidate before the convention. “[There will be] pressure in the Democratic Party to reach closure by July 1 to help launch the candidate to become the next president at the convention in Colorado,” Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen also expressed frustration with the legislation put forth by Democrats that has been passed over or vetoed this year.

“Things we have been unable [to do] under the Bush administration are stem cell research legislation and children’s health insurance improvements for four million more children to be covered,” he said.

The congressman also highlighted boosting public participation by voting, which he characterized as “embarrassingly low” in the country, and called upon audience members to become more engaged in the political process and consider careers in public service.

Van Hollen concluded his address by offering his argument for voting Democratic in the upcoming election.

“The question to ask yourself this year is, `Are you happy with the status quo?'” he said. “If you want to embark on a new direction, to be competitive in the global economy and improve health care and foreign policy, vote Democrat.”

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