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August 29, 2006

It's A Pick 'em Race

George Wenschhof

The big question heard around Frederick County these days deals with the race to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes. Will the Democrats retain the seat, or will a Republican sneak into Washington?

On the Democratic Party side, Kweisi Mfume and Ben Cardin are jockeying for the lead, with spoilers Josh Rales (with considerable personal wealth) and Allan Lichtman (with considerable tenacity) just not going away.

On the Republican Party side, the anointed favorite is Lt. Gov. Michael Steele with nary a peep coming from any of the other Republican candidates including Daniel "Wig Man" Vovak, whose claim to fame so far has been the discussion on whether or not to allow him to use the name "Wig Man" on the ballot.

It seems that anyone and everyone is on the ballot for the primary including 18 who have filed as a Democrat, 10 that have filed as a Republican, and one who have filed as a Green Party candidate. So 29 people are starting out vying for one position and on September 12 this number will be down to three; one Democrat, one Republican, and one Green.

Having met Mr. Mfume, Mr. Cardin, Mr. Rales, Mr. Lichtman, and Mr. Steele, I wondered who the other candidates were. So I went to the Maryland State Board of Elections web site to try to gleam some more information.

Sure enough each Senate candidate had an opportunity to insert some information about themselves and the issues that were important to them. Only five had answered last week and none of them would qualify as front runners in this election.

Here are some thoughts about three of them. First is Earl S. Gordon, a Republican from Olney, who says he was born in Jamaica and migrated to the U.S. in 1978. He attended college in Canada. He says he has worked for engineering companies, a biotech firm, and IBM and is a registered small businessman with several small ventures. He also states he has worked on political campaigns at all levels and has worked as a volunteer at the White House.

He has been a strong critic of the Bush Administration. His top three priorities for the next six years are: (1) Cut off funding for the war in Iraq and bring the troops home; (2) require the federal government to implement a socio-economic plan for the American people that is similar in nature to those in Scandinavian countries, England, and Canada; and (3) Institute comprehensive tax reform which he describes in more detail.

Second is Anthony Jaworski, a Democrat from Kensington, who says "God and angels have allowed me to be in this election."

He talks about how Robert Kennedy visited his university and that John and Jackie Kennedy visited his home town. He says: "I want the gov. to release all files on the JFK murder. Johnson has the documents and evidence sealed until 2036. How is it that any people would allow their gov to conceal the evidence of their leaders murder?"

He goes on to say that he would make a law allowing the people in all 50 states the power to do signature generated initiatives. He says this would allow the people to amend the Constitution. He would also charter a new federal agency to enforce the 1787 Constitution. In addition he would also change the terms of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to four years with a limit of two four year terms.

The third is Kevin Zeese, a Green from Takoma Park, who indicates that he has been an advocate for more than 25 years on social and economic issues. He was a founding member of the Montgomery County Coalition for Alternatives to War and TrueVoteMd, which works to end paperless electronic voting.

He says he is running for the Senate "because the two major parties no longer represent the interests of most Americans." He points out that the majority of Americans are against the war in Iraq, yet the Senate voted 99-0 to continuing to fund the occupation and is not even considering an exit strategy.

He states that his campaign will seek support from voters across the political spectrum whose views are not supported by the two major parties.

Not one of these three candidates has any real chance of winning; but it is great that they are out there participating in the political process and it is enlightening to learn a little bit about them.

The primary vote on the Democrats side on September 12 will be extremely close. Josh Rales and Allan Lichtman, both of whom have visited Frederick several times, will receive enough votes so that the winner on the Democrat side - Mr. Mfume or Mr. Cardin - will win by a plurality and not a majority of the votes cast.

Both Mr. Mfume and Mr. Cardin are solid candidates. Representative Cardin is a nuts-n-bolts type of can-do guy with experience in getting things done in the political arena. Former Representative Mfume is much more charismatic and energetic with real life experiences that help him understand what many voters are thinking.

The primary vote on the Republican side will be a landslide for Lieutenant Governor Steele. He is articulate and has a strong political background. Although he has had a few media blunders, he would be a credible senator. He has also been warmly received in his visits to Frederick.

After the primary, Marylanders could see for the first time African-Americans facing each other with Mfume v. Steele. Regardless of whether Mr. Mfume or Mr. Cardin faces Mr. Steele in the General Election, it will be a battle of epic proportions.

Both the national Democrat and Republican parties will continue to target and insert political operatives and money into this race and the race for governor. They realize that these races will be decided by razor-thin margins.

Replacing Sen. Paul Sarbanes will not be easy. He has been a statesman and a gentleman during his many years in office. His effective representation of Marylanders will be missed.

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