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Lynda Lambert’s Voting Guide(?) to the big Democratic races for those who are as confused as I am

by LYNDA LAMBERT
If they didn’t send any information into the League of Women Voters, I figure they’re not serious candidates.
For 38 years, I have voted in every election: primary, local and national. In all that time, I have never been so confused as I am now as to who is running for what and whom I want to vote for. The slate of candidates for the Democratic Primary seems endless, but I finally went to The League of Women Voters, which has its guide online. I used it to come up with the following conclusions.

I’m not recommending anyone, mind you; but just sharing my conclusions. Go to the League’s site and draw your own. But, if it helps, here are mine on a few of the major races.

Obviously, forget Governor. O’Malley is now unopposed. So, either vote for him or don’t; he’s still going to win.

Comptroller, on the other hand, is a big contest. The Democratic candidates are Peter Franchot, Janet Owens and the incumbent William Donald Schaefer.

I got some literature in the mail the other day from Franchot. His big promise is that he will "stand up to the Republicans' pro-slots..." agenda. Obviously, he wasn’t paying attention in the last election. Ehrlich was elected by this majority Democratic state because we wanted slots. I still want slots. So, Franchot is out for me.

Janet Owens has a pretty good ad until the last line: "the Democrat for Comptroller." "The" Democrat? What are Franchot and Schaefer? Chopped liver? And my daughter heard Owens on Steiner’s show a few weeks ago and said she sounded "snotty." I don’t know whether that’s a valid assessment, but I do think the "I’m the only Democrat worth counting" is kind of snotty, so, it could be. So, she’s out.

That leaves Willie Don. Yes, he’s old. (So am I.) Yes, he sometimes says things he shouldn’t. (I like that in a politician.) But more than age and attitude, the important thing is that he’s done an excellent job and has devoted his life to the people of the State of Maryland. I’ll be voting for Schaefer.

Attorney General is another hotly contested race. The Guide says that Doug Gansler, Tom Perez and Stuart Simms are running for the office; however, on the Maryland State Board of Elections site, it says that Perez is no longer running. Of the two left, I like Gansler. Gansler was a national prosecutor in the Clinton Justice Department. His plans are not plebian; he’s said that he actually wants to tour every inch of the Bay, find the polluters and put a stop to them. I think Maryland needs an Attorney General that thinks outside the box. So, Gansler is my guy.

Picking a senator to fill Sarbanes' spot is harder. The Democratic candidates for the office number 18: Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, David Dickerson, James Hutchinson, Thomas McCaskill, George English, Alan Lichtman, A. Robert Kaufman, Anthony Jaworski, Dennis Rasmussen, Charles Smith, Lih Young, Blaine Taylor, Josh Rales, Bob Robinson, Theresa Scaldafera, Mike Schaefer, Joseph Werner. PICK ONE! Yikes! One of these folks can win if he or she gets only 6% of the vote. This is how I whittled it down.

First, if they didn’t send any information into the League of Women Voters, I figure they’re not serious candidates. So, I crossed off Bob Robinson, Theresa Scaldafera, Charles Smith and Robert Kaufman for that reason.

Normally, I would vote for Kweisi Mfume or Ben Cardin. I’ve voted for them both before. But I don’t think I want anyone nationally this time that has "inside the beltway" thinking. So, for the moment, I’m setting them aside.

David Dickerson made the comment under "Foreign Policy" that "We have become the red coats...." I really agree with that. And George English wants immediate troop withdrawals from Iraq, with an all Muslim peacekeeping force set in place by the UN. I like that idea, too. However, both these men want to "fully-fund" No Child Left Behind. And since I think NCLB is the worst piece of legislation ever to be thrust upon us, they’re both out. Josh Rales and Dennis Rasmussen also support NCLB; so, they’re out.

Anthony Jaworski has too narrow a view for me. He didn’t answer the League’s questions and instead just talked about term limits for Congress and an end to the electoral college. And, although I agree with him; there are more important things than that.

Alan Lichtman is hard to figure, because all but one of his answers was too verbose to be noted in its entirety. That one was his energy policy, which is interesting, but nothing new.

Thomas McCaskill has brains; his bio says he was a research physicist for 42 years. And he wants to fund a system of free college for everyone–-a nice goal, but it seems more important to me to make sure high school graduates can read and write. So... not him.

Blaine Taylor ends his tirade about foreign policy with "We are a Christian nation!" I think that would be enough to bump him off my list, but his education policy takes us back to the 16th century and he wants to "execute terrorists" and "shoot killers." So, no. Not in a million years.

Mike Schaefer’s answers are all vague and general. Under education, for instance, he tells us that there are no simple answers and to beware of anyone who "has all the answers." Ok. That’s a given. However, I’d like some answers. And since he has none, he’s out.

Joseph Werner has a few good answers, but, they too are general. I think we need someone with specifics in mind. So--sorry, Joe.

Lih Young seems to have a good heart. "Support humanity, peace and justice" is how he (she?) begins his Foreign Policy section. But if you read on, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion I did. This candidate is too naive; he’d be eaten alive on The Hill.

And that just leaves James Hutchinson, who wants us to treat "terrorism as piracy" and protect our borders and international law. I like that. He also believes that the current NCLB focus leaves out important subjects like: "civics, art, history and athletics." Based on his replies, I think Hutchinson is my guy.... or Cardin or Mfume. I haven’t ruled them out; but, at least, I’ve narrowed my field to three.

I’m in the 3rd Congressional District, and of the myriad of candidates running, this is the one pick I made early: Oz Bengur is my guy for Congress. I agreed with him on every point, save one. And that one was so important to me that I wrote him an email in protest. And, guess what? He called me on the phone to explain his position. We talked for about 30 minutes. That kind of personal attention wins my vote every time.

My state legislative district is the 40th. I like Salima Marriott. I’ve met her and she seems like a very intelligent, lovely woman. I was going to vote for Catherine Pugh, however, because she is a good money manager and I thought we could use one of those in the State Senate. However, I didn’t like her answers to the League’s questionnaire. I did like Belinda Conaway’s. And, even though I’ve been sort of anti-incumbent for the most part, I think I’m going with Conaway.

The only others I’m sure of are Cerniak and Hwang for State Central Committee. I’ve met and talked with them both fairly extensively. And, let’s just say I like the cut of their collective jib.

As to the rest... it’s all still a blur. And the election is tomorrow! Help!
Lynda Lambert, a college English instructor, is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.



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This story was published on September 11, 2006.