Amie Hoeber said her first professional conference in the defense industry was something like being a fish out of sea. She was one woman in an ocean of men.
“It was 3,000 men and me,” she said.
It was a challenge, Hoeber said, but on the other hand, she was memorable.
Hoeber — whose first name is pronounced “AH-mee” — cut her teeth in politics at the Pentagon as deputy under secretary of the Army under President Ronald Reagan at a time when few women worked such jobs.
She thinks her experience in national security and defense will be a benefit in the U.S. House, where she’s challenging 6th District Representative John Delaney.
Hoeber has been selected by the National Republican Congressional Committee among 17 candidates nationwide with the best chance of defeating a Democratic incumbent in November.
Hoeber still works as a defense consultant and specializes in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare defense.
“I am looking for this job in order to help keep our country safe,” Hoeber said. “I think our national security posture is in bad shape and I think I have the expertise to help Congress improve it.”
She said she will be an advocate for small government and small-business owners if elected.
“I think we need some serious attention paid to reducing the number of regulations that hamper the growth of small businesses in this district,” she said.
Hoeber was born in Texas, grew up in California and studied political science at Stanford University. Going into the defense industry was accidental — it was the first job she was offered — though she soon found it challenging and rewarding.
She has a son and five stepsons. She and her husband, Mark Epstein, live in Potomac.
A former co-owner of a flower shop, Hoeber said she now finds her creative outlet through painting and glass-blowing.
Hoeber said while the flower shop ultimately failed, her respect for small-business owners endures.
“Small businesses really do drive the economy. And they innovate much better and more quickly than big business,” she said.
In an interview at Hunter’s Bar and Grill, near her home, Hoeber said she doesn’t think other members of Congress have the same depth or breadth of national security expertise.
Hoeber said the Defense Department needs more people. As long as military members remain overseas, the cycle time for deployments needs to be lengthened to allow more time back home, she said.
She said the defense budget is too high, partly because much of it is for non-defense spending. For instance, military retirement pay is calculated as part of the defense budget and that cost takes away from buying new planes and guns, she said.
She is endorsed by 14 high-level military leaders from the Pentagon, including generals and admirals.
Hoeber said she’s always worked and been a part of professional organizations and focuses on mentoring young women in defense.
Hoeber said immigration solutions could start with a focus on enforcing existing laws and increasing funding to make that happen. More “people power” on the border with Mexico could also increase enforcement in a meaningful way, she said.
She has acknowledged areas where she lacks expertise. She has taken meetings with transportation experts, met with families touched by the national heroin crisis, and seeks broad views on fracking in parts of Maryland farther west.
“I like researching issues, meeting as many people as possible,” she said.
Since announcing her campaign, Hoeber said she’s developed a comprehensive transportation plan for the 6th District, including widening Interstate 270 and adding interchanges in that corridor, as well as adding transit options for Frederick and Montgomery County residents.
Hoeber has been campaigning hard in Frederick County. Last week, she attended five events in the county. She tries to spend one day a week in each of the five counties that are part of the district.
Hoeber and Delaney live near each other in Potomac, just outside the 6th District boundary. Under the U.S. Constitution, members of Congress must live in the state they represent, but not in the district.
In her first election for public office, Hoeber has received support from self-financing.
About 73 percent of her funding — $562,000 — was self-financed, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group based in Washington.
Additionally, the Maryland USA Super PAC — which is affiliated with Hoeber’s husband, Mark Epstein — has contributed $2,621,631, including more than $80,000 last week, according to the center’s analysis.
Last month, Delaney filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging illegal coordination by Hoeber’s campaign, Epstein, and Maryland USA Super PAC.
In an emailed statement, Hoeber called the complaint “completely fraudulent” and said its filing was a “desperate act by a desperate man.”
She attacks Delaney for his political ambition, including unconfirmed chatter that he may seek the governorship in 2018.
“I’d be interested in showing him the door two years early,” she said.
Hoeber said she’s especially not impressed with the moving billboards Delaney hired to circle the State House this year to challenge Hogan on whether he supported Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“He’s playing a kindergarten game,” Hoeber said. “You’re going to act like a kid, and I’m going to act like an adult.”
The governor has since said he does not support Trump, but has endorsed Hoeber. At an announcement last month, he said he thinks Hoeber can pull off an upset similar to his win over then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) in 2014.
Voter enrollment in the 6th favors Democrats, though it could be considered the most competitive district in the state.
In this year’s April primary, about 45 percent of eligible active voters in the district were Democrats, compared with 33 percent who were enrolled Republican.
For her part, Hoeber supports Trump as the Republican nominee, something she promised voters last summer when the Republican field had 17 candidates.
“I stand by my pledge. I’m an honorable person and I will support the current party ticket,” she said.
That’s not to say she’s without reservations.
“There are things he’s done that I’m not happy with, but I believe it’s better than the alternative,” she said.
Hoeber remains upset that Hillary Clinton didn’t face greater repercussions following revelations that she worked from a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Hoeber doesn’t worry about post-election partisanship if she’s elected.
“I don’t think it’s very different from working in the Pentagon in the sense that it’s a large systematic effort to govern the country,” she said. “I have worked across party lines before when I was in the Pentagon. I worked with both sides of Capitol Hill to get things passed. I think I can do that again. I think one does that by creating relationships with people, so that you can talk to them about issues without anger or stalemates.”