Monday, April 20, 2009

Final Campaign Forum Draws a Crowd

By Sharon Dooley.

It was standing room only at the Marilyn J. Praisner Library in the Fairland area Saturday as the District 4 candidates squared off in the final event of the primary campaign. Co-sponsored by the African American Democratic club and the District 14 Democratic cubs, the event allowed the candidates to hone their messages before the partisan crowd. In alpha order, those attending were Robert Goldman, Ben Kramer, Cary Lamari and Nancy Navarro; Tom Hardman arrived more than one hour late, apologized without explanation and sat down.

All candidates stuck to the themes and messages that they have brandished throughout the campaign and there were few news items or jabs across the table.

Lamari kept to his populist message and was clearly the most animated and demonstrably passionate of the group. His speaking about the 14th amendment in an attempt to tie it to the ambulance fees and equal protection seemed to be off base. His anti- ICC message was an audience favorite. He also mentioned that he was mostly self-funding his campaign, although with significantly fewer dollars than his two main opponents.

Goldman talked about his neighborhood and his wife and children who were present and still seems to be running to govern Burtonsville. (Too bad it isn’t a municipality.) He did speak also about volunteerism, minorities and juvenile justice – where he volunteers.

Hardman had short, somewhat rambling responses and when given a chance to ask his audience a question, tried to determine which topics ranked highest on their list of concerns. He seemed surprised that taxes were not picked as a primary issue and that jobs, healthcare and housing were ranked higher.

School Board member Navarro was better and more confident in her answers, which seemed less tentative than they had been at the first forum; she smiled more and seemed to relate well to the audience, many of whom were persons of color. She spoke frequently of the majority minority designation of District 4. Several of her answers were brought back to her strong point – matters before the board of education, although this was not always relevant. Oddly, she did not forcefully ask the audience for their vote.

Delegate Kramer had an up and down day. Knowledgeable and succinct, his answers were generally to the direction of the questions asked, but at times, he did not seem to reach out well to the audience, smiling infrequently. Discussions of race were minimal in his answers in a room that called out for such a dialogue. Despite this, he was clearly informed and informative in his responses, speaking well about the foreclosure issue, for example.

All candidates had partisans in the audience: Lamari stickers were noted across the room, Eric Bernard of the Volunteer Firefighters was called out by Lamari for not supporting him when they had in the past – this group endorsed Kramer this time. Council member Valerie Ervin was in attendance – her support for Navarro is well known. (I am unsure if Council member Leventhal – a Navarro supporter - was in the crowd; someone said they saw him, but I did not.) Senator Rona Kramer was there in support of her brother, as was Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg who also supports him.

So it is about all over now except for the shouting. Several friends who live in District 4 have mentioned that the mailings, phone calls and voice mails have been pretty heavy. Negative campaigning is said to be getting worse, with many, in my informal survey, indicating that Navarro’s mailings were the most misleading. I have not seen them apart from the postings done by MPW, but it has been seen that negative ads work, even while being decried by the voters. Turnout is likely to be the key and a repeat of the low approximately 8% or so seen last year is not unlikely. So – it seems that the voters will speak on Tuesday – I expect a close race between Navarro and Kramer and would not venture a guess as to the winner, but I believe that the winner will take Leisure World, where turnout is expected to be larger than elsewhere. Leisure World might then control the deciding precincts.

My message to District 4 voters is – get out and vote on Tuesday. Make a difference in this county by casting a ballot for the candidate that can best represent you and will work hard for Montgomery County’s future.

Sharon Dooley