a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Maryland District 20: a report from the field and the barbecue

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th October 2006

I went out canvassing once again this weekend, this time on more familiar ground — good old Maryland District 20, as advertised here on Wednesday. Although my friend Brett couldn’t make it this time (get well soon!) a fair number of other people did: instead of the hoped for 100 people, around 200 people reported for duty at Heather Mizeur’s house this morning — and that despite the threat of rain, which thankfully didn’t materialize.

The Democratic Party in this area is still sticking to targeting “sometime Democratic voters” — people who haven’t always voted over the past several elections. That turns out to be a fairly scarce group in District 20, and given the great number of volunteers, I wound up with a relative handful of households to canvass on my walking list, around 2 dozen maybe. As the volunteer surplus dawned on the organizers, it was decided we’d also “lit drop” nearby houses regardless of whether they were targeted by the walking lists.

As usual, I got mostly “absolutely” type responses if anyone was home; I did get one “undecided” answer from an older black gentleman, but I couldn’t draw him out to learn whether that was out of old school reticence or some leanings towards Steele.

I’m most concerned now about the Cardin Senate campaign. No matter what I think of them, Steele has put out some well-received, cheery ads that portray him as a nice, can do guy. Also, despite the odds being good that pro big business, pro-war, pro-life, anti-stem cell research Steele would support Bush to the hilt if elected, I have the impression a not insignificant chunk of black voters may switch sides for a favorite son.*

Meanwhile, it seems to me Cardin is running a stolid, workmanlike campaign-by-the-numbers which may suffice — but which may not. The well-regarded Cook Political Report moved this race from “leaning Democratic” to “Tossup” on the 27th; that had one campaign staffer I talked with a bit worried. On the other hand, Cardin’s own numbers and a Washington Post poll as of the 26th and released today have him well ahead (Post: Cardin 54%, Steele 43%, Zeese 1%); on yet some other hand, I’ve heard the Republican Party is dumping a significant amount of cash on this race, indicating they think they have a shot.

So at the barbecue following the canvass — a signature Heather Mizeur touch: campaign hard, then enjoy** yourself — the word was to not let up in the final days of the campaign. The winning District 20 candidates were there: the so-called “3 H’s” (Hucker, Hixson, and Heather Mizeur), and Jamie Raskin, as were Mark Elrich, Peter Franchot, and some state and national heavy hitters, including Lt. Governor candidate Anthony Brown and our congressman Chris Van Hollen, who gave a great speech; he’s part of the “Red to Blue” Democratic effort and allowed as how they’re doing better than they thought they would a year ago.

Albert Wynn
The most interesting visitor to me was Albert Wynn (D-MD-4), a Prince George’s County congressman who has a reputation for playing political hardball and not shying away from favors for and donations from corporations any more than he has to — he supported the execrable bankruptcy bill in 2005. He arrived with an entourage and even some advance work — someone, a staffer I suppose, handing out stickers to one and all. They were generally accepted; no use crying over Donna Edwards at this point, I guess, that’s done.

Anyway, M., a fellow canvasser, grasped the nettle, went right up to Rep. Wynn, and urged him to part with some of his campaign treasury cash for the greater Democratic good; the so-called “use it or lose it” idea, described here a week ago, is that Democrats like Wynn without significant opposition can afford to contribute some of their reserves to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) or selected congressional candidates and help retake the House.

I took heart and followed suit. Saying I was aware of all the hard work Wynn has been doing for the Democratic Party, I said I still hoped he’d part with some of his campaign treasury’s reserves to help more Democrats get elected.

And he said he would! I didn’t press the 30% target that Chris Bowers at MyDD is suggesting, so I don’t know if I ought to hang up a “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet, but it was a good moment.

In his own remarks later on, Wynn said he was particularly encouraged about Democratic prospects, and offered two anecdotes to explain why. The first was simply that he had recently attended a fundraiser for ex-Congressman Mark Foley’s Democratic opponent in Florida — a good guy, he said, with a chance for a seat Democrats had never expected to win.

The second anecdote was either encouraging or ironic, depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist: Wynn told of meeting someone fundraising on a D.C. street for the Democrats. He said words to the effect that “Here was a woman all but begging for money on the street for Democrats.” It seemed like the perfect time to announce he was going to contribute more of his own funds to that cause. But instead he just said that’s when he realized how badly Democrats wanted to win this time. Still, as an optimist, I hope that means he’ll kick in some more of his own cash on hand, too.

Whatever Wynn does, the incredible volunteer turnout on Saturday was a good sign for Election Day, I think. I hope anyone in the area reading this will join in over the next 10 days at phonebanks, in campaign offices, canvassing door to door, or working precincts on Election Day to help make sure Maryland Democrats hold up our end in what promises to be a historic election.

* UPDATE, 10/30: But the Washington Post poll lays worries of black crossover vote to rest: “Steele has support from 14 percent of black voters, not significantly higher than the support [Maryland’s Republican governor] Ehrlich is receiving, the poll shows.” For his part, Cardin polls 81% of black Maryland voters. I was going to say you can’t ask for lower than 14%, but it’s more than double Bush’s 6% approval rating among Maryland African Americans, and Kerry got 89% in 2004. Still, at these levels of support, it’s on Maryland’s nonblack voters to make sure Cardin’s elected, not its black ones.
EDIT, 10/30: added this footnote and the Albert Wynn subheading.
** Incidentally, if the words barbecue and Czapanskiy (District 20 Democratic Committee) occur in the same e-mail, you’d be a fool not to go next time. Three words: venison, chili, superb. If you don’t go, that’s fine too: more for me.

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Letter from MY congressman

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 27th September 2005

Dear Thomas,

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to President Bush’s order to suspend the Davis-Bacon law in the counties affected by Hurricane Katrina.

I strongly agree with you. As you know, under the Davis-Bacon law, a federal contractor must pay its worker the prevailing wage for that location. By suspending this law, federal contractors can cut Gulf Coast workers’ wages, charge the federal government no less for the work done, and pocket the difference–the President’s proclamation does not require contractors to cut their charges to the taxpayer. It is entirely unacceptable that President Bush would condemn these workers–many of whom are victims of Hurricane Katrina–to subpar wages as they begin to rebuild their homes and lives.

To this end, I am pleased to report that I am an original co-sponsor of the Fair Wages for Hurricane Victims Act (H.R. 3763), which seeks to reverse this unconscionable action by the Bush Administration and reinstate the Davis-Bacon law for the counties affected by Hurricane Katrina. I have also written President Bush requesting that he rescind his order to suspend the Davis-Bacon law. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter, and please do not hesitate to contact me whenever I may be of service.


Chris Van Hollen
Member of Congress

(Links added) Chris Van Hollen was the 4th cosponsor of the bill — only George Miller, Nancy Pelosi, and Major Owens were ahead of him. He’s my Congressman, and unless you live in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, no, you can’t have him too.

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