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Strategists Weigh In On Wynn/Edwards

Rosalind Helderman

The political establishment in Maryland's 4th congressional district is still largely in a state of shock over Donna Edwards' margin of victory over longtime county figure Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) in Tuesday's primary. Now that all but two Prince George's precincts have reported results, the magnitude of her victory has become crystal clear. Including all voters, in Montgomery and Prince George's, Edwards thrashed Wynn by 22 points.

In Prince George's, where two-third of district voters live and the area thought to be Wynn's stronghold, she won handily as well, with almost 55 percent to his 41.5 percent (the other four Democrats in the race picked up the remaining votes). She fell just shy of pulling off a Mayor Adrian Fenty-esque feat of winning every precinct in the district, tying Wynn at Allenwood Elementary School in Temple Hills and falling nine votes shy of him at Bradbury Heights Elementary in Capitol Heights.

Wynn strategist Julius Henson, a political consultant in the county known for being dispatched by Wynn to help local candidates, called her victory "the perfect winter storm." He noted Wynn had figured he'd have to win 32 percent of the vote in Montgomery and 54 percent in Prince George's to win. "We did not do that--we didn't come close to doing that," he acknowledged.

Henson said he believed new voters, particularly those under age 35, who turned out in large numbers to back Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) broke for Edwards. (Potential evidence of such an argument: About 39,000 more people voted in the 2008 primary than the 2006 match-up between Edwards and Wynn. Yet, Wynn picked up only about 3,900 new votes. Edwards increased her 2006 tally by 33,200.)

Henson, who is a political consultant, also said he believed Wynn needed to go on the offensive against Edwards earlier, to counter the $1.5 million spent by independent groups on ads and mail targeting his record. "He didn't want to go negative on her," Henson said. "While she was pounding and beating on him, he just didn't want to do it."

Celinda Lake, a pollster who worked for Edwards' campaign, said she agreed Wynn's most aggressive counterattack--robocalls alerting voters to past tax liens filed against Edwards' home--came too late to make a difference. She said she believed Wynn was unable to answer charges his record was out of step with his district and so would have lost the race regardless, but the margin might have been closer had he attempted to "disqualify" her earlier. The calls, she said, were "too much, too personal, too negative, too late."

She said the Edwards' campaign had figured it would need to split Prince George's 50/50 to win and take 65 percent of the vote in Montgomery. Lake said there was concern, however, that the voting surge reflected in historic turnout would be more pronounced in Prince George's, which could have worked to Wynn's advantage. Instead, both counties saw a surge and both went for Edwards.

She said a poll conducted at the end of January for the campaign showed a quarter of voters were undecided. "Voters broke overwhelmingly for Donna," Lake said. "I think part of the reason for that was a very aggressive campaign she ran right up to the very end."

And one final note on this race for those who follow such things: Wynn, whose term will not end until January 2009, is a presidential superdelegate, committed to Obama.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 15, 2008; 11:26 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Next: Coming Up in Maryland Politics


Wynne's staff are still clueless to the intelligence of his electorate. The tackiness of revealing her tax lein on her personal property only widened the margin that she won by. It seemed desperate and in poor taste. It was also insalting to voters that this would be a deterrent from getting Wynne out.

Posted by: nquasie | February 15, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Donna Edwards! We know you'll do a superb job!

Posted by: Donna Edwards Fan | February 15, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Henson and Lake are dead wrong. Aggressive campaigning by Rep. Wynn would have done him no good at all. And his highlighting the now paid-off liens on her home just disgusted us. The voters are tired of Democrats who support the Bush administration and want them to exhibit some backbone. 70% of us want out of Iraq now. We're tired of the Bush administration spending our grandkids money and mortgaging their future lifestyle. You don't have to be a mindreader to predict that there's going to be a watershed election come this fall.

Posted by: L Donnelly | February 15, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

As a former Maryland Resident, I found representative Wynn to be pompous and completely disconnected from the electorate. I on many occasions wrote to him and his staffers seeking, not relief, but explaination on some tax legislation that was, at the time pending. I was completely ignored and, as a result, resolved never to support him.

When a politician believes that they have risen above even the least of their electorate. That is a politician that is no longer fit for office.

Posted by: Concernedaboutdc | February 15, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Congratulations to Donna Edwards! We know you'll do a superb job!"

Yeah, keep on keeping on. She'll do a great job. Of being a meaningless, completely uninfluential member. Way to go voters. You got what you wanted. A loser. GOD BLESS YOU!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

All Dem incumbents should now realize they are on notice: if you do not do what you were put in office to do, we will primary you.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | February 15, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

When running for Congress, line up a few independent half million dollar contributions at the start. Then find a few key votes and run like heck.
It doesn't take much time.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | February 15, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad Edward trounced Wynn. Wynn had gotten very pompous and secure in his position like other third world office holders who do not know when to step down and give fresh blood a chance. Seniority does not translate into competence. example I wrote to him when I was having problems with elected officials in my county. Instead of an help, I got my mail returned and instructions on how to follow protocol and how he does not get involved in litigation. I am glad he was made to eat humble pie.

Posted by: Rene | February 15, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

If Edwards had Obama's guts, she would run against and defeat Clinton Supporter, Mikulski in the Democratic Primary, 2010.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | February 15, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Watch out, incumbents. Despite your best gerry-mandering efforts, the people will demand accountability.

Watch out, spineless Democrats. Progressives will demand a true opposition party.

Watch out, dirty tricksters. You go too far when you highlight a struggling single parent's difficulty paying her property taxes.

Watch out, complacent politicians. Obama has brought new and younger voters into politics. Your old projections based on "likely voters" won't hold.

Posted by: mizbinkley | February 15, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I too sent mail to Wynn and received no response. He cared more about getting slots in PG than the citizens. I applaud the voters for finally waking up and ushering him out.

Posted by: Gladtoseehimgo | February 15, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Al Wynn needs to realize now that everyone in this tri-state area is very politically smart now. You cannot just run on past performance and win anymore. You have to deliver on some promises and be held accountable. He's learned a lesson about taking people for granted the hard way;- through public humiliation. The fact that Ms. Edwards had a lien on her home makes her a perfect candidate because she knows what it is to struggle and can identify with people who are in the same situation she was in at one time. So I say hail to the victor!!!

Posted by: heygriff | February 15, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

If winning an election is so damn easy, Robin, how come you've never managed to do it?

Posted by: lefty | February 15, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I agree with most of the critiques on Wynn's laid back approach to defending his turf. I kept waiting to hear from Wynn to respond to Edward's attacks, which were negative but did raise issues of complacency. When Wynn finally responded, it was too little, too late and, what is more important, too vague. I vaguely remember voting for Edwards in the last primary. One of the pivotal issue with Obama running for president is dramatic change and had I known that Wynn backed Obama as a super-delegate, I would have seriously considered Wynn more. Both Edwards and Wynn visited my Church, with Edwards showing up much earlier and being introduced as a member. When Wynn visited and he received weak, polite applause, I knew he was in trouble. Wynn failed to educate us as voters.

Posted by: Timothy Falls | February 15, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

As a former political operative (in a neighboring congressional district), I would inquire what they thought of Donna's candidacy in '04 -- they considered her a fluke. I reminded them a fluke she is not, and that she would rock his candidacy in '08 and she has and will. I'm sure. Wynn has gotten a lil too comfortable in his congressional seat, ignoring signs of the times.

Posted by: Bellini | February 15, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree that Al Wynn had become too complancent. As a member of his district, he was barely responsive to his constiutents needs. I found his personal attacks regarding Edwards' financial problems to be in horrible taste and sending the wrong message. Are only the wealthy fit for office? As someone else wrote, the fact that she has overcome financial and healthcare hardships might possibly make her more understanding of the plight of those she was elected to represent.

Posted by: tcampbell | February 15, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The Wynn ad demonizing Edwards as a puppet of rich white people were embarrassing. All of Wynn's people in the ad were African-American. No whites, no Asians, no Latinos. If a white candidate had run a similar ad, they would be on the front page. The old MSM double standard. With Wynn out of the way, Donna Edwards can get back to doing what her progressive liberal constituents and campaign contributors want which is to diminish the tax base, halt job growth and development, increase needless regulations, pander to environmentalists, suck up to unions, and then to complain about the consequences.

Posted by: Bville | February 15, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

How can tax liens on a congressional candidiate be a personal issue? This is definately a political issue. If someone is not paying taxes for several years and are being put in a lien by the IRS (when many Americans work payment plans with them regardless of their personal situation) is it okay to receive congressional salaries at the taxpayers expense? That is a political issue!

Posted by: arnlstw | February 15, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

PAST tax liens filed against Edwards' home, not current ones.

Posted by: mizbinkley | February 15, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Although I have no objection to Donna Edwards personally, I am sorry she won due to her extremely wasteful campaign. My home was inundated with mailed fliers, at one point eight on the same day. In the weekend before the primary, we were harrassed with up to a twenty phone calls per day from the Edwards campaign. Between the environmentally unsound waste of paper and the waste of my time, I dread the next politician that follows her unfortunately winning strategy.

Posted by: knap | February 15, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Past or present it doesn't matter. It is still a political issue!

Posted by: arnlstw | February 15, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one has commented on the barrage of robocalls, pamphleteers and junk mail that Edwards employed. It got so bad that I vowed not to vote for her under any circumstances. And, as if this weren't enough to drive me up a wall, she wins in a landslide! She is rewarded for her obnoxiousness! God help us.

Posted by: wmav04 | February 15, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

If that really is Robin Ficker posting, let me add this to 'lefty's' remark. Robin didn't want to run because he was busy trying to win back his law license after the state suspended him for failing to properly represent clients.

If Ficker ever won a race, he'd be just like Wynn - pompous, arrogant, superior and refusing to answer constitutent mail - a guy who thinks he's better than everyone else and entitled to office just because he's Ficker.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Wynn was never going to get my vote again after helping lead the effort to bring slots to Prince Georges county. Gambling can be devastating to a family and community from a personal finance and crime perspective. Power and money seemed to be more important than the moral values that are important to our community.

Posted by: Retired | February 15, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Money does not cast ballots, voters do.

Al Wynn only won three precincts in Prince George's County. Sherwood's campaign failed in Mitchellville, Kettering, Largo, inside the Beltway and outside. Wynn's campaign failed even more in Montgomery County. No amount of money should beat a sitting popular incumbent. However, an unpopular incumbent is vulnerable. That was Al Wynn's problem.

He never made a case for his reelection. He had eight terms to build a record, and instead he chose to be ineffectual in Congress. Without a record, there was no soap box to stand on. He never tried to coopt Edward's constituency.

After 14 years of never seeing your Congressman, suddenly he was everywhere. It was obvious he felt the heat from Edward's first race. Problem was, there was Al in the corner of the room for a few minutes, then he was gone. He never participated in an event or rarely spoke other than a greeting. It was transparent to all he was simply scared-straight.

Then, in the days before the election, he decides to annoy voters with unending robo calls. I would come home to four or five messages on my machine - all brutally attacking his opponent, never anything positive about Al Wynn.

Finally, his poll workers were not local and had no enthusiasm for him. Donna had multiple people working their own poll. Voters could see which candidates their neighbors enthusiastically supported. Al could not engender excitement - even among his own supporters.

It was classic reap what you sow.

Posted by: manderson | February 15, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I am tired of these types of news stories claiming that Al Wynn lost because of the way he campaigned. Al Wynn lost because of the way he legislated. Period. He voted for Iraq war, the Bankruptcy Bill, and other legislation that his constituents did not support.He went through a nasty divorce with his wife doing robocalls for his opponent. He also had a poor record of costituent service. He should have been out years ago, except that there was no other well known alternative on the ballot.

Posted by: tina | February 15, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Edwards won because of her long-time roots in Montgomery County. Not! She won because she had 3 half million dollar contributions. Without them she would not have won.

Posted by: Isn't it clear? | February 15, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree, Donna should run against Mikulski, who is behind the times. If Obama can run for President, Donna can run for Senate!

Posted by: Mikulski Out, Edwards In | February 15, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Leggett supported Wynn and Ike and Al lost Montgomery County 2 to 1.

Posted by: Ike and Al | February 15, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I contend that Donna Edwards victory over Albert Wynn is the sole reason for the Democrats' sudden and very belated show of spine on the domestic spying/immunity for lawbreaking telecoms issue. They're scared to death that they're going to be held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) by their consituents, so they're suddenly all spineful. It's finally beginning to sink in that if they don't get re-elected, they don't get any more bribes from the telecoms or anybody else. And even K Street must have a limit on the number of unemployed legislators it can support.

Nancy Pelosi knows that her job hangs by a thread, and if a new breed of Democrat is elected next year, she's out on her fanny. And all those so-called blue dog democrats must be sweating bullets.

Posted by: Helena Montana | February 15, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I just wish that Donna Edwards would pick up all the signs that her campaign staff posted illegally in the medians of Maryland state highways. It is illegal to post any advertising signs whatsoever in the right-of-way of Maryland state highways.

Posted by: Montgomery County Voter | February 15, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Albert Wynn was an influential Congressman that had political power and helped the area. Donna Edwards will not do anything at all. I don't care if she is a lesbian or not and whether she will be with fellow lesbian Mikulski. Edwards is not going to help anyone at all and she does fit the stereotype since she had a child out of wedlock. The idiots got what they wanted..a liberal who is worse than what they had.

Posted by: Joe Jackson | February 15, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Way to go Joe Jackson. Dem dere lesbians is the root of all evil, (except if they're in my bed).

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | February 16, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse

State Senator Rob Garagiola, who was the deciding vote for the computer tax on a 24-23 state senate vote, also supported Wynn. That's two strikes Garagiola.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 17, 2008 3:01 AM | Report abuse

Julius Henson's comment is so characteristic. He urged Wynn to go negative earlier but Wynn didn't want to do it. If only Wynn had listened to Henson, maybe Wynn would have won -- so don't blame Henson for Wynn's defeat. This is complete and utter crap. Anyone who hires Julius Henson should know what kind of a thug he or she is paying for. This self-promoting, race-baiting, mud-slinging campaign consultant has lost election after election but somehow he keeps on bamboozling politicians into hiring him. His entire campaign strategy for the Stu Simms 2006 campaign for Attorney General was to wallpaper the state with illegal signs in median strips and stapled to telephone poles. Wow, what a great strategy to elect the state's top lawyer: break the law with impunity.

Posted by: don't hire J. Henson | February 18, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Al Wynn was an idiot. His defeat was a long time coming.

Posted by: Adelphibob | February 20, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

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