Washington area voters go to the polls today, with Marylanders picking party nominees for Congress and county executive, and D.C. voters deciding among candidates for mayor, including three major contenders whose names won't be on the ballot.
Elections officials expect hundreds of thousands to turn out for the primaries, which will determine the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Nov. 5 general election. New voting machines also will debut in both the city and Maryland suburbs.
Voters cast the votes at the Wheaton Community Center polling place in Maryland.
(Christine David - washingtonpost.com)
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Full Coverage: 2003 Md. Elections
Maryland has hotly contested races in Prince George's County, where voters will select among five Democrats and two Republicans vying for county executive, and in the 8th Congressional District, where four Democrats are battling for the chance to challenge veteran Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella. All 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly are on the ballot, as are seats on the Montgomery and Prince George's county councils and the D.C. Council.
But it is the District's mayoral race that the historians are waiting on, as incumbent Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) wages a write-in campaign for reelection. In addition to four rivals on the Democratic ballot is a second write-in candidate, Anacostia minister Willie F. Wilson.
To add to the drama, D.C. Republicans have write-in candidates of their own for mayor, including D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, a three-time candidate. She is not officially running but says she might accept the nomination if GOP voters scrawl her name on their ballots.
Williams was headed to an easy reelection until he lost his spot on the primary ballot because of massive fraud and forgeries in his nominating petitions. Wilson joined the race soon after, also as a write-in candidate, because the deadline for getting on the ballot had passed.
Both candidates campaigned heavily yesterday. Wilson started the day at the Takoma Metro station, greeted voters in several neighborhoods across the city, then ended the day at a rally at Brightwood Park United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington. Williams lunched in Ward 5 and did a radio call-in show before having a rally at Bible Way Temple in Northwest Washington and hitting a Monday Night Football party.
The four candidates whose names will appear on the ballot are former D.C. Council member Douglas E. Moore, Osie L. Thorpe, James W. Clark and Faith, who goes by one name.
D.C. elections officials prepared to count what they expect will be thousands of write-in ballots.
Washingtonians also have races for D.C. Council in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6. At-large Council member Phil Mendelson (D) is seeking to keep his seat against rivals Beverly Wilbourn, a lawyer, Dwight Singleton, a member of the school board, community activist Al-Malik Farrakhan and M. Muhammad Shabazz.
Maryland's District 8
In Maryland's 8th Congressional District, both parties are targeting the seat in their battle to control the House, and the $6.5 million raised in the race so far makes it the most expensive House race in the country. The heavily Democratic district includes most of Montgomery County and a sliver of western Prince George's.
The field features Mark K. Shriver, a two-term state delegate and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy; state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen, a lawyer and General Assembly veteran; Ira Shapiro, a lawyer and former trade negotiator for President Bill Clinton; and lawyer Deborah Vollmer. The name of a fifth candidate, Anthony Jaworski, will appear on the ballot, though he has not appeared at campaign events.
After a long and hard-fought campaign, the candidates agree that the race could well depend on turnout. Voters have been plied with political mailers, television commercials and taped phone calls.
Hour 14 of a 24-hour campaigning marathon found Shapiro at the Silver Diner in Rockville, loading up on caffeinated beverages and greeting lunchers with the line "no one is safe from the candidates!" Down the road, Van Hollen shook hands with Giant supermarket shoppers, vowing to "sprint to the finish line." Across the county at the Leisure World retirement community, Shriver campaigned with his sister, "Dateline NBC" anchor Maria Shriver, greeting mostly elderly voters at a rapid pace with the idea that even this late in the game, "if people see you're out hustling, it can make a difference."