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Senate Debate Line-Up Lament

Three Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate from Maryland rallied in Annapolis yesterday to protest their exclusion from tonight's live televised debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters that will include only the two front-runners for the party's nomination.

Although there are 18 Democrats running in the Sept. 12 primary, only U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and former representative Kweisi Mfume are allowed to participate in the debate which will air on Maryland Public Television tonight at 7 p.m. The league requires that candidates attain at least 15 percent support in an independent statewide poll to participate.

Montgomery County businessman Josh Rales, American University history professor Allan Lichtman and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen protested yesterday on the steps of the organization's Annapolis headquarters yesterday demanding that the league reconsider its debate regulations.

"New voices and fresh perspectives should be welcomed to the political process, rather than kept out by the political establishment and a media that is a rubber stamp for professional politicians," Rales said yesterday, according to his prepared remarks released by his campaign.

Rales, Lichtman and Rasmussen have trailed Cardin and Mfume in recent statewide polls. In a Washington Post poll in June, 5 percent of voters said they would support Rasmussen, 3 percent would support Lichtman and 1 percent would support Rales. Mfume and Cardin received the support of 31 percent and 25 percent of voters respectively, and 26 percent were undecided.

Rales seems to have gained ground since then, according to one independent poll released this week. In a statewide poll released by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, 6 percent of voters said they would support Rales compared to 3 percent for Lichtman. A combined 2 percent of voters said they were supporting Rasmussen and other minor candidates. In the same poll, 43 percent of voters said they would support Cardin, 30 percent would support Mfume and 15 percent said they were undecided.

Rales' gains in the poll could be attributed to an aggressive, largely self-financed television advertising blitz his campaign launched in July. A millionaire real estate investor, Rales has pledged to spend about $5 million of his own money in the campaign.

-- Philip Rucker

By Phyllis Jordan  |  August 31, 2006; 7:13 AM ET
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The real story here should be the unwarranted influence of polls. First, the Gonzales poll should be viewed with great skepicism. Mr Gonzales is first, a political consultant in the employ of several candidates with either direct ties or indirect ties to the front runners. Second, Mr Gonzales is no stranger to poll manipulation and controversy when he operated the now defammed Mason-Dixon Research Company.
A review of the questionnnaire and the method of administration are in my estimation poor form. It is incredibly long. Senate questions are at the end, the responder is first set up with a variety of questions that cause them to focus on the Cardin Steele and Mfume Steel match-ups, then almost in an afterthought approach responders were asked about the others in apha order without rotation. The researcher should make all the data and circumstances availiable including recoring documents and phone list. I doubt that they can or will produce such information.

Posted by: Gerry | August 31, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Where is the Post editorial outrage as the exclusions? We have had two Baltimore politicians in the U.S.
Senate since l987.Why six more years? We will never get our Metro funding.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Independent for Montgomery County Executive | September 1, 2006 7:49 AM | Report abuse

I so wish the Montgomery Countians would put aside their parochialism. Do they really expect that we'd nominate a Republican (Rales) in the Democratic primary. Or a nutcase (Lichtman.)

If the Montgomery Countians feel so strongly about the need for a DC-area candidate, they can vote for Steele in the general. He's from PG County. See then if you get your Metro funding.

Posted by: Baltimore Voter | September 1, 2006 9:10 AM | Report abuse

To the Baltimore Voter...I'm sure Montgomery Countians wouldn't be so parochial if we didn't have to pay so much of our tax money for Baltimore's services and failing schools...

Posted by: Montgomery Payer | September 1, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

We do have many good candidates running for US Senate on the Democratic side, and Cardin and Mfume are two of the best. Maryland will be very well represented by either of these guys. But it's different in Montgomery County in the County Executive race. Of the two leading Dem candidates, Leggett and Silverman, there are a few policy differences, but Silverman seems not tempermentally suited for public service. He seems insecure, defensive, and even mean spirited towards people who don't support him. The Post today reported that he called Duchy Tractenberg to ask why her name was on Leggett's list of supporters. She was reported to have told him that he must have better to do than to scour other candidates' list of supporters! Good for you, Duchy! These elections ultimately are about character. So we have an easy choice in Montgomery County of September 12.

Posted by: MoCo Voter | September 1, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Allan Lichtman is not a nutcase!

Posted by: Mfume Supporter | September 1, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

You're right, Mfume supporter, Licthman is not a nut. In my opinion, he's one of the smartest guys on the trail, the most insightful, AND he give a good speech. Not as good as Mfume, but pretty good for law school professor.

Posted by: i like mfume | September 1, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

This is off topic, but what's up between Tom Perez and Doug Gansler? Was it the court challenge? Gansler's support of Silverman? Perez was pretty critical of Gansler at the AFL CIO endorsement yesterday. What's up with that?

Posted by: A. G. Watcher | September 1, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Re the MoCo voter's comments: Knowing of other instances where community members have been on the other end of similar calls as the one Duchy Trachtenberg received from County Executive Candidate Steve Silverman (Post, page B-1), I can confirm that Montgomery Countians need someone with a steady, cool head to lead the county at this point in time. Unfortunately, we have a few divisive hotheads who have served in At-Large County Council positions over the past four years. There has been way too much of an "us against them" or divide and conquer mentality in Montgomery County politics in recent years. I know that Ike Leggett is respected in the business and development community. But unlike his opponent, he has chosen not to align himself so closely with one segment of the community and has refrained from trying to persuade potential detractors from supporting the other guy.

Montgomery County is in desperate need of leaders with integrity and maturity. Unfortunately, Mr. Silverman seems to lack both qualities. Perhaps if we vote for leaders we can actually trust on Sept. 12, maybe we can stop being so parochial in MoCo. It's hard to think beyond the scope of your county when you feel that you have to keep a close eye on your local politicians to see who they're taking money from or how they're selling the county out for special interests.

I liked Luiz Simmons' comment at the end of the Silverman article about being older and foxier -- or wiser? Ike Leggett is certainly older than Steve Silverman and listens to people rather than running over them. We're counting on Leggett to bring the various factions of the Montgomery community together and deliver on realistic goals. You can't do that by putting spin and lip service toward issues with slick mailings, anti-Leggett web sites, or obnoxious oversized signs. Give me a solid mature public servant over all of the flash and dynamism any day. We have to get back on solid ground in MoCo.

Posted by: Donna in DoCo MoCo | September 1, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Lichtman was the first guy to call my house unsolicited and play a pre-recorded campaign message with no callback number and blocked caller ID. My number is on the national do-not-call list, and candidates who call me automatically lose my vote. My reasoning is that anyone who makes political phone calls to people whose numbers are listed on the national do-not-call list is unfit for public office. No, being on the do-not-call list doesn't make these calls illegal or actionable, but it does make the people who make them incredibly stupid.

As for his stunt at the debate, well, muscling his way onto the stage where he is not welcome is exactly the sort of thing I would expect from someone who hires a robot to call people who have already made it clear they don't want to be called.

Posted by: tired of phone calls | September 4, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

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