The way you love basketball, baseball or boxing, some people love politics. They love the aspiration, the stakes, the strategy, the jostle, the rhetoric, the thrust and parry, the smooth follow through. Theyre lured by, in the words of the promo for ABCs old Wide World of Sports, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
If basketballs your sport, youre rushing toward March Madness with the NCAA tournament. But political fans get to play even earlier in Marylands March 2 primary. True fans wouldnt miss this action, because they know you might never get closer to your hero, never have a more intimate moment with democracy, than when youre behind the privacy screen voting.
Ticket-Toppers: Playing in the White House Sweepstakes
At the top of the ballot, where the big ten play, life is large, and fans are fanatics.
Following Howard Deans meteoric parabola, John Kerrys comeback-kid play and John Edwards populist drive from nowhere to stardom, Democratic fans raced for the morning paper to read primary scores from around the country. Evenings were planned around candidate debates and long hours of CNN gazing.
Of course, true political junkies cant live on second-hand news. They traveled to places like Iowa and New Hampshire, where winter really knows how to blow cold, to get close to the political heat. They crowded into firehalls and school gymnasiums, arriving hours early to get a place, to press into the crowd and to share the rising pulse of the body politic.
Up close, candidates make entrances the way boxers make their way to the ring, following their handlers through the pressing throng. Movie stars, war heroes, political legends and likely their wife or mother lead the way. But the candidate captures the Klieg lights and the cheers, and finally when the applause dies down, hopes soar during speeches like cold birds finally sun-warmed to flight.
Thats how it is at the top.
Thats the high thats carried the Democratic Partys superstars from Iowa and New Hampshire through 17 states thus far into Maryland, where finally we get our chance to choose in the March 2 primary.
By the time we go to the polls Tuesday, many of the Democrats Big Ten will be long gone: Florida Sen. Bob Graham; ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois; Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri; Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; retired Gen. Wesley Clark; and, most recently, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton still call themselves players, but neither has any realistic hope of advancing.
By the time we cast our votes on those new electronic touch screens, Primary Madness is down to the championship: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry against North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
Maryland is one of 10 states voting on March 2, which will be a decisive day in the campaign. On that day, with delegate-rich giants like California, New York and Ohio voting, more than half of the delegates needed to nominate a candidate at the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer will be chosen.
Marylands Democratic ballot will tell a story thats not kept up with history. Democratic voters will find nine candidates, alphabetical from Braun to Sharpton even though many are long gone. Among them are scattered two more names: political gadfly Lyndon Larouche and Baltimorean Mildred Glover. Neither has mustered the credibility to be invited to debate, and commentators have ignored them. But supporters of Larouche, whos from Virginia, wave placards in the big, cold, early primary states, and they register on ballots across the land to represent him at the Democrats nominating convention.
Mildred Glover, the second African American woman on the Democrats presidential primary ballot, is a new player in this big stakes game. A former member of the Georgia General Assembly, Glover teaches in the School of Business and Management at Morgan State University, where for a decade she was assistant dean.
She announced her candidacy at her high school class 50th reunion last year in a speech urging her classmates to, her webpage says, move beyond retirement and finish the work that each of us had left to do.
One more box remains on the Democrats presidential primary ballot: Uncommitted to Any Presidential Candidate.
So Democratic voters can vote for any of 12 choices (Florida Sen. Bob Graham dropped from the race before Marylands ballots were drawn up).
What happens to your vote is not so straight forward as you might imagine. First, youre not voting directly for their candidates; youre voting for delegates, who are his counters.
Second, this game has a 15 percent minimum; candidates who fall below that total get no delegates. Candidates who get above 15 percent win a share of delegates proportional to their vote. Thats why Howard Dean, who withdrew from the race on February 18, urged his supporters to stick with him during this primary season to expand his clout at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. But will Dean be a party player or just a Democratic warlord?
Kucinich, meanwhile, has given no hint of quitting and expects to take his potent anti-war message all the way to Boston. Im built to last, the 5'6" Kucinich said before the Wisconsin primary last week.
Sharpton, too, says he plans to stick around in hopes of amplifying justice and equality issues at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
On the Republican side, its a lot simpler. Incumbent President George W. Bush, like Michael Jordan in a different league, has no competition. If you take a Republican ballot, vote for him or not: Thats your choice.
Convention Delegates: Carrying Water for the Stars
While youre voting for president, look down the ballot to their local counters. Also on the March 2 ballot are the delegates wholl carry our votes to the nominating conventions in New York for the Republicans and to Boston for the Democrats. These men and women are not only fans; theyre farm-league players.
Back when political decisions were made by politicians, conventions were the archetypal smoke-filled rooms. Big-city mayors like Chicagos Richard J. Daley warred with Dixie Democrats until finally they compromised on a candidate.
Now, after political reform, voters and caucus-goers are the ones who get to size up the political horse flesh by choosing delegates to the political conventions.
At those week-long festivities, local party activists are rewarded for helping their candidate get so far. And theyre inspired to play hard in the months leading up to the big vote in November.
In the words of Calvert County Republican Bob Reed, a would-be delegate, I worked so hard on the Bush campaign that I want to go to New York.
Winning a ticket to your partys convention is a plum.
Ive never been a delegate or gone to a convention, so its new and exciting, says Anne Arundel Democratic activist Edie Segree, who registered as a District 1 delegate for Congressman Dick Gephardt. Now that Gephardt has since dropped out of the race, Segree says shell vote for the leading candidate if I get the opportunity.
But as Segree knows, that plum has to be won. Voters like you award the prize by chance or by choice, depending on how well you figure out the rules of a game more complex than basketball.
Delegates run by congressional district. Calvert County shares a single district, 5, with Southern Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundels other three districts are also shared with other counties. Each district has its own ballot, and therell be plenty of names. Some of them may be your friends, for at this level, politics is very local.
In District 5, where the Republican ballot offers seven choices for delegate, we recognized six of the names, choices hailing from Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince Georges and St. Marys counties. Each Republican voter picks three delegates and, from a separate sheet of four, three more alternates.
The Democratic ballot for District 5 offers 47 names. Further complicating the rules, theyre broken down between 19 women and 28 men, from whom you select four men and three women to send to the convention. The lowest man of these seven vote-getters goes as an alternate.
Democrats split their votes between men and women, explains Calvert County Democratic party chair Doris Spenser, because we try to make sure there is parity by gender and ethnicity.
District 1, linking to the Eastern Shore, has 30 Democratic delegates on the ballot, equally divided between men and women. Voters choose six plus one alternate. Republicans choose three from seven, plus three alternates.
District 2, northeast, offers 15 women and 22 men to Democratic voters, who choose five plus one alternate. Republicans choose three from four, plus three alternates.
District 3, west central, offers 24 women and 30 men to its Democratic voters, who choose six, plus one alternate. Republicans choose three from 10, plus three alternates.
Numbers are related to the partys vote in the last election. Altogether, Maryland Democrats will elect 47 delegates and seven alternates to their convention. Fifty-one more delegates and six alternates are chosen by the party.
Theres still more you need to know to be a skilled player at the primary polls.
Delegates follow their leader. Their leaders name appears with their own on the ballot, in parenthesis. To be sure that your candidate for president gets your vote at the nominating convention as well as in the voting booth, you need to choose delegates wholl vote the way you have.
Vote for other delegates, and those who win a ticket to the convention can vote their choice. Thats not so likely nowadays, where a partys candidate is chosen in primaries rather than at the convention. But it can still happen, according to Democratic State Partys Josh White.
So true believers try to vote a straight ticket, matching their delegate choices to their candidate for president insofar as thats possible. You may have more delegate votes than would-be delegates committed to your candidate. Then you vote for friends or cast your votes for your second choice.
March 2s election is a primary, where voters are still expressing their preference, not electing. If Maryland follows the national trend, Kerry will get more votes; thus more delegates. Edwards is expected to win some, too.
But its not quite that simple, because theres the 15-percent-minimum rule. Thus, explains Calvert party chair Spenser, One of our Dean delegates is Olivia Campbell. If Dean doesnt pick up enough votes, she isnt a delegate. On the other hand, if Dean wins, she does. Even top-polling delegates arent going to the convention if they backed the wrong candidate.
With each of Marylands eight congressional districts voting for delegates, sorting out who sends how many of each is a job best done by computer. And thats how the final tally is made: by the state board of elections. It all happens quickly, according to Calverts elections chief Gail Hatfield, and results will be posted on-line that night.
For Republican voters, it ought to be easier. But the rules of politics are never simple. Republican voters will still choose from delegates committed to Bush and apparently uncommitted delegates.
Alternates get to go for the party, but they dont get to vote. These are coveted seats, so they are carefully selected. Candidates running with Bush have been approved by the presidents campaign; theyre the insiders. Candidates whose names stand alone may be just as loyal, but when push came to shove, they didnt get their partys endorsement.
Still, they can get yours.
Angling for the Upper Chamber
Women play power basketball and power politics, but few have reached so high as Barbara Mikulski, the first woman elected in her own right to the United States Senate. Marylands two senators are up for election every six years in staggered cycles, and this year is Mikulskis turn.
Nine men and two women are playing against Mikulski. Two are Democrats, and if thats the party you vote, youll see the names Sid Altman and Robert Kaufman before hers on the primary ballot, where all listings are alphabetical.
Vote on a Republican ballot, and you wont even see Mikulskis name. Youll likely see her name on the ballot in November, against the GOP candidate you select March 2.
Few of the nine candidates on the Republican ballot have names familiar beyond their community loyalists. Only one state Sen. E. J. Pipkin from Queen Annes County holds elected office, and few do much in the way of advertising. Three hail from Anne Arundel and one from Prince Georges.
For some of the six we spoke with, that goal is a lark; for many, an obsession.
Perennial among Republican senatorial hopefuls is Gene Zarwell, 63, from Gambrills, who says hes been fixated on the Senate since he was 10 years old. This is his third try at that seat; in between elections, hes says, Ive kept my name in mind by running for Congress and state comptroller. Running unsuccessfully for election is by no means all of Zarwells resume. He cites a five-career experience that includes 35 years in the military plus fundraising for such global events as the Womens Challenge for a Whitbread medal and Atlantas Olympic Games.
Challenging Zarwell and seven others on the Republican ballot in March in hopes of challenging Mikulski in November is Jim Kodak from Odenton. A graduate student at University of Maryland, Kodak says, I honestly believe I can not only beat her but also make big contributions. Very few people have my policy creativity.
To demonstrate that creativity more widely, Kodak will have to defeat the likes of Ray Bly, of Jessup, who has this succinct way of describing himself: Everything about me is a copyrighted book: www.raybly.com.
Bly, who practiced by running for Howard County Council in 2002, is a Vietnam veteran who says that one of his aims is to bring God back to government.
God and government may have to remain separated unless Bly wins, which also would mean defeating Eileen Cookie Baker Martin, of Crofton, in the Republican primary.
Yes, Cookie Baker appears as part of Martins name on the ballot. But it isnt really her name, says Martin, who calls herself the anti-Barbara Mikulski. Its the reason shes running, in her first try for public office, for the U.S. Senate.
I call myself Cookie Baker to oppose Hillary Clinton, Martin says. I stayed home and raised my children myself. Freed by the graduation of her youngest son to pursue her own ambitions, Martin says I felt it my duty to speak up. This is Democracy at work. Im an average citizen, and I care about my government and patriotism.
Thats why politics is such a great sport. It takes all kinds to play the game.
Cast your vote for one Republican or one Democrat on March 2.
The U.S. House: Attacking the Power of Incumbency
Whats the difference between a senator and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives? As the latter, he or she may grumble, I have to run every two years.
Thats why Marylanders once again this year get the opportunity to change our delegation to the House. Truth be told, members of Congress seldom lose, thanks to the power of incumbency.
Will 2004 be different?
The four congressional districts for Anne Arundel and Calvert counties each represent roughly 662,000 people. Youll cast your vote for just the member in your district, three of four of which are represented by Democrats: Steny Hoyer in Marylands Fifth District, Benjamin Cardin in the Third and C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III in the Second.
The sole Republican is First District Rep. Wayne Gilchrest.
Youve got to put together a pretty good campaign with lots of support in both people and money, Maryland Democratic Party director Josh White observed.
Thats an understatement considering that more than 95 percent of House incumbents win re-election.
Despite the odds, more than a dozen candidates a total of 16 in the four districts challenge the regions sitting House members.
Gilchrest has just one Republican primary opponent, Richard Colburn from Cambridge.
Likewise, Cardin has drawn a primary challenger, John Rea of Annapolis. Hoyer and Ruppersberger are unopposed in their primaries.
Republicans running for Congress are more numerous. In the Third District, which now includes Annapolis and the whole center of Anne Arundel County from east to west, Cardin is feeling that pinch. Among his three potential Republican opponents are two experienced players.
One is Robert Duckworth, clerk of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court for 10 years, whos presided over thousands of marriages and hundreds of adoptions, leaving a trail of people who remember his distinctive name. The other, also well-known, is Del. David Boschert, of Anne Arundel County.
In the other districts, would-be challengers lack these advantages. The March federal primary is a quieter affair than Septembers statewide primaries when more state players, including candidates for governor, take the court. March candidates you have to seek out.
We caught up with two of Hoyers would-be opponents at Republican candidates day at Calvert Country Market.
Opposition to big government is why Joseph Crawford, of Bryantown in Charles County, is making his third primary bid to challenge Hoyer.
Protecting our borders for trade and against evil people: thats what government does well and should do, says Crawford, who believes government makes a disaster when it tries to provide health care or protect the environment.
The first two runs, Crawford says, built momentum and a little name recognition. This time, he says, I have a shot at winning.
Opposition to government also motivates Patrick Edward Flaherty, who runs an office-supply store in Prince Frederick.
Congress, he asserts, has restricted citizens right to free speech with the recent McCain-Feingold legislation restricting campaign contributions.
Flaherty, who calls Hoyer a traitor for supporting that law, traces his passion to his service in the first Gulf War. I took an oath to defend my country against enemies foreign and domestic, he says. Steny is the enemy.
Those are a few of the players, but not all either on the court or making the call. In primaries, youve got a position to play, too. Youre the one who makes the decision. Seek them out, listen and follow through with your vote.
As they say in Chicago, where politics is as popular as the Bulls, Vote early and often. In Maryland early means on March 2; often means again November 2.
School Board, Judges, Too
In both Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, voters drop their party identity for one nonpartisan vote on March 2.
Calvert County voters at least a few of them get to narrow the pool of candidates seeking election to the school board. But the pools already so narrow that only one-third of Calvert voters have any choice this election. Thats in the countys northern District 1, where four candidates must be reduced to two for Novembers general election. In that district, not only Democrats and Republicans but also Independents get to choose two from a field of four would-be school board members: Jeffrey Borgholthaus, Jack Fringer, Tim Klares and Frank Parish.
Voters in the other two districts wont get a ballot choice on school board until November. Then, each district will elect one. Even then, voters in the central District 2 will have an easy choice: Only Robert Gray is running.
In Anne Arundel, voters make longer-lasting decisions, helping choose three circuit court judges.
Yes, judges are usually appointed, and appointing them is the governors job. He chooses from a list of applicants whove already been widely vetted.
But every so often, voters get to second-guess the governor. All judges must get the voters approval in the first general election after their appointment. In three of Marylands four courts, we only get to say yea or nay. But circuit court judges run against all comers.
Anne Arundel County voters get threefold reconsideration rights on circuit court judges this year.
A couple of trends combine to bring Anne Arundel a hotly contested, eight-way election where there used to be no contest. First is the changing current of the times. Over the last decade, would-be judges have increasingly decided they get a better shot at the bench from the people than through the long appointment process. Indeed, the odds seem to be on their side. Judges have little name recognition but wide-case recognition, explains Robert Wallace, administrator of Anne Arundels Circuit Court. Contenders can argue judges records against them, while judicial ethics bind the judges to silence.
Second, at least half of Anne Arundels 10-judge bench came up for reappointment during Parris Glendenings years as governor. Two judges won election in 2004; three more stand for election this year.
On March 2, Republicans and Democrats choose whether to keep circuit court judges David Bruce, Michele Jaklitsch and Rodney Warren or to prefer any of five challengers. Judges run without party affiliation so all eight are on both ballots. A win in both party primaries earns a judge a bye an uncontested run in November. Otherwise, top party vote-getters face off in November, and you vote again. Or, if youre Independent, for the first time.
Once you elect circuit court judges, theyve got a job for 15 years or until they turn 70, their mandatory retirement age.
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Elections are not only a favorite spectator sport. Theyre also democracys substitute for war. Theyve served the United States well since 1781, with that unfortunate lapse in the middle of the 19th century reminding us just how much better an alternative they are. We hold elections frequently, so tempers wont get too frayed over long waits.
We Marylanders have got one coming March 2. Its a primary election, and primaries are the best sport of all. Thats because the bar is set low enough that just about anybody can play.
In general elections, the kind coming around on November 2, the bar is set high. Votes win you the right to get on that ballot. Candidates collect those votes in primaries, where all you have to do to play is pay the filing fee.
Theres no handicapping here, so the low bar makes many contests wildly unequal. Propelled by all sorts of deeply cherished beliefs and high hopes, amateurs and unknowns run against senators, congressmen and even judges. For each president or senator or U.S. representative, there are limitless opponents. So most of the contestants in primaries are insurgents. All these insurgents have one goal: to topple the guy or gal in power.
|Calvert County elections chief Gail Hatfield with a new touchscreen voting machine.
But since the rebels fight with words instead of sticks, stones and big guns, nobody gets hurt very badly.
Heres where our analogies end. In war and sport, the fight is the thing. Victory goes to the last competitor standing. Elections can only be decided by our vote. Thats why theyre our favorite sport.
Whats at Stake?
The right to choose your partys contenders in Novembers general election and delegates to its nominating convention this summer.
Who Gets to Vote?
In modern American elections, every citizen over 18 has the right to vote. But not everybody gets to exercise that right. To vote, youve first got to register. If youve missed that step, youre out of the game until November. Registration for this primary closed February 10. Register before October 15 to vote in November.
Primary elections are even more selective; theyre downright partisan. And Marylands election laws are rigidly drawn, reducing the power of Independents. To vote in a Maryland primary, youve got to register as either a Democrat or as a Republican. In many states, Wisconsin among them, the presidential primary voting was open to all comers.
All the offices at the top of the ballot plus convention delegates, who are tied to presidential candidates are partisan competitions. Republicans vote for one set of candidates and Democrats for another.
So each party has a winner for each office, and those winners fight it out in between March and November. Your vote on March 2 narrows the field. Your vote on November 2 ends the competition and awards the prize.
On March 2, Calvert County Independents also vote for school board in one district.
Whos on the Ballot?
This Maryland primary is top heavy, with Democrats and Republicans choosing their partys contenders to represent us in Washington as
- President of the United States
- U.S. Senator
- U.S. Representative
Republican and Democrats also elect citizens wholl work only one week in helping their political party nominate its candidate.
This is a federal primary, with no state offices at stake. So everybody elected to work in Annapolis will keep their job for two more years.
- Anne Arundel County
- Three District Court Judges
- Calvert County
- School Board, in county District 1.
How Do You Vote?
March 2 is the first time Marylanders will vote by computer. You simply touch the screen to make your choice. Each vote leads to a prompt on your next decision. Your vote is registered on a plastic card the size of a credit card. Like a modern hotel key-card, you insert it to submit your votes to the computer. This first time around, election judges help with that stage. When the card pops out, you take it to the election judge. To back up the system, votes are also tabulated in each voting computer.
When Do You Vote?
The polls are open Tuesday, March 2, from 7am to 8pm. You must go to the polls in person to cast your vote. If youre going to be out of town, you can still apply in person at your local election office for an absentee ballot.
Where Do You Vote?
Your polling place is named on two documents youve received in the mail: your voter identification card and your sample ballot. Or call your local elections office.
- In Anne Arundel: 410-222-6600
- In Calvert: 301-855-1376
If You Need Help
Need more information? A ride to the polls? Call the party of your choice.
- Maryland State Democratic Party: 410-269-8818
- Maryland State Republican Party: 410-269-0113.
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