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Too Late to Debate

Rosalind Helderman

First there was Ralph Nader. Then Mike Gravel. Now we have Jason Jennings, the 37-year old utility consultant who jumped into the race for the Democratic nomination for Maryland's 4th Congressional District this month and, given his late start, has been told he cannot participate in a debate at the Oxon Hill Library on Saturday.

Mark Spencer, who works with the African American Democratic Club of Prince George's, which is sponsoring the debate, said club organizers only learned of Jennings' candidacy on Nov. 11. He said the format was already set, candidates invited and time for the event limited to 90 minutes. Club organizers decided an additional person would mean each candidate would get too little time to respond to audience questions.

"This was a really tough decision for us," Spencer said. "He really caught us off guard. Unfortunately, we had already set out the format of the debate, and we weren't able to accommodate him."

Not surprisingly Jennings, who participated in a debate in Silver Spring last week along with the race's other four candidates, said he was disappointed. He said he felt as if that debate was dominated by a back and forth between incumbent Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) and attorney Donna F. Edwards, who has been considered Wynn's leading opponent after coming within 3 percentage points of knocking off the longtime congressman last year. "I'm not satisfied with the choices," Jennings said. "I feel like we're always stuck with the lesser of two evils."

Jennings pointed out that Wynn is raising campaign cash from the political action committees of big companies, while Edwards is taking in a lot of money from ideological allies who do not live in the district. (Read more about the race here.) "To me, it's a different side of same coin--serving outside interests at the expense of the people of the 4th district," Jennings said.

Jennings said he will attend Saturday's debate, which begins at 10:30 a.m., anyway. Spencer said group leaders, who expect several hundred attendees, think residents who come by will get a good education about the race, Jennings or no. "It's an opportunity to actually hear the candidates address some topics and issues, not just with prepared statements," he said.

Other candidates in the race are George E. Mitchell and George E. McDermott.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  November 15, 2007; 6:25 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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