Last-minute campaigning efforts stepped up in District 18
Sep. 4, 2002
Leah Carlson
Staff Writer

With the countdown to Tuesday's primary election almost over, candidates for the state legislature are stepping up their efforts on all fronts in District 18.

Candidates and their campaign volunteers are calling homes, knocking on doors, sending mail and putting up signs in District 18, which encompasses parts of Kensington, Silver Spring, Wheaton, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

Tuesday's primary election will determine the winners in District 18 because no Republicans have entered the race. Seven Democrats are running for three seats in the state House of Delegates, and three Democrats are running for one seat in the state Senate.

Most candidates said they are feeling a little anxious, but looking forward to Tuesday.

"It's a little bit like opening night in the theater. If you don't have a few butterflies, you ought not be there. I think everybody's apprehensive," said Del. Leon Billings of Kensington, who is running for re-election.

Billings said it is natural to feel anxious because candidates invest a lot of time, thought, money, creativity, and shoe leather in their campaigns.

Walking the precincts

Reaching people at their homes is crucial to Sam Statland of Kensington, a House of Delegates candidate. Door knocking has been the centerpiece of his campaign.

He spends most afternoons and evenings walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors. All that exercise has had a personal impact. Statland has lost 45 pounds and worn out four pairs of shoes during his campaign.

Statland said he believes a large percentage of voters are still undecided. "There's lots of persuadables," he said. "We have literally knocked on the door of almost everyone in our district."

A bit of uncertainty will remain for all the candidates until the election results are announced. "You can't let that uncertainty get in your way, and what you have to do is finish real strong," Statland said.

Rich Madaleno of Kensington, another House of Delegates candidate, said now is a key time because voters have returned from vacations and are focusing more on the election.

"As the summer wore on, people have become more engaged," he said.

Madaleno said it is important to find a balance and reach voters in appropriate ways. "You don't want to overload them," he said. "It's such a delicate balance between introducing yourself and getting your message across and being pushy and putting somebody off."

Pete Fosselman of Kensington, another House of Delegates candidate, said some residents are surprised that candidates still knock on doors.

"It's just nice to get some one-on-one," Fosselman said.

Reaching voters

by phone and mail

Phone calls and mailings are typical tools for political candidates in any area. Local residents have received, or will receive, personal letters, brochures, post cards and other forms of campaign literature from District 18 candidates.

"Everyone is doing a lot of mail. I hope all the postal carriers have adequate health care coverage," Madaleno said, half-joking.

Fosselman said he sent out postcards this week and continues to e-mail and call voters. "It's working well," he said.

Candidates said the information is important because voters do not always know who is running and what district they live in.

Michael Griffiths of Silver Spring, a state Senate candidate, said, "Most of the people I've talked to have been very receptive. They don't know much about any of the candidates. ... Even if I won, I'd say that's sad."

"It boils down to the money and how much your name is out there and how much people are talking about you, if they're taking about you at all," Griffiths said.

Rallying Latinos

Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase, a House of Delegates candidate, is using radio and other strategies to increase Latino voter turnout.

She is a native of El Salvador and hopes to capture the votes of Latinos, who she says comprise 20 percent of the population in District 18.

She has focused on outreach through radio, television, and phone calls. She said she has appeared on several Latino radio and television programs.

"The radio is the best way to get to the Latino community," she said.

She said lots of Latino voters have called her campaign office to find out candidate names, how to register and where to vote.

Gutierrez said her campaign will place bilingual volunteers at polling places in areas with large Hispanic populations on election day.

"We're going full out to provide the supports that people are going to need," she said.