Patriotic Parades With Political Flair

Nhie'n Pho, a member of the Vietnamese American Community Organization, dances past the National Archives.
Nhie'n Pho, a member of the Vietnamese American Community Organization, dances past the National Archives. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post)
By Paul Schwartzman and William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Out of the swarm of clowns, bagpipers, fire trucks and politicians, D.C. mayoral candidate Vincent B. Orange Sr. still managed to stand out before the crowd lining yesterday's Fourth of July parade in Northwest Washington.

The orange bracelets he handed out helped. So did the softball-sized oranges, reinforced with the candidate's never-subtle exhortation that "Oranges are good for you -- Vitamin C."

But what set council member Orange (D-Ward 5) apart from his four opponents in the race to succeed Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) was his mode of transportation: a whirring, two-wheeled Segway, on which he said he practiced to ensure he could travel the mile-long parade route in the Palisades neighborhood.

"Mr. Orange, don't fall off that thing!" a supporter shouted as the candidate set off with a wave, a big grin on his sweaty face.

The Fourth of July is a day of rituals that invariably includes grilled hot dogs, a brilliantly lit fireworks display and a raucous, rollicking parade. But when election season comes around, another staple is added -- clusters of marching, glad-handing and sloganeering politicians.

From the District to Montgomery County to Baltimore, candidates seeking local council seats, U.S. Senate spots or other top offices in the District and Maryland spent the holiday descending on voters with pamphlets, unflinching smiles and firm handshakes.

In the Democratic neighborhood of Dundalk, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), wearing a flag-patterned polo shirt, heard scattered shouts of "Four More Years!" as he walked with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for Senate. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Ehrlich's Democratic rival, was greeted by cheers from supporters in lawn chairs along the route.

In Montgomery County, the crown jewel in most candidates' busy Fourth of July itineraries was the Takoma Park celebration -- a 117-year-old rite bringing out thousands of people. Two hours before the parade, campaign workers were showering passersby with literature, yard signs and stickers.

"I almost feel sorry for how we're co-opting Takoma Park's parade," said Hugh Bailey, a county council candidate, holding several large red signs emblazoned with his own name. "But this is the best chance to spread the word about yourself."

Standing in the shade, Leslie Kent had collected an armful of campaign brochures and stickers. "After awhile, it gets tough to tell the difference between everyone," she said while fanning herself with signs handed out by volunteers for County Executive candidate Isiah Leggett (D) and State Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery).

In Palisades, organizers said the parade lasted 30 minutes longer than scheduled because of an unprecedented candidate turnout -- a gaggle that included the five Democrats seeking the mayor's seat, many if not all of the 10 vying in the Ward 3 Council race, the three running for Council chair and two hoping to capture the at-large Council seat.

Oh, and there was Faith, the perennial mayoral wannabee, who rode on a horse, her hair framed by an American flag, her ever-present trumpet at the ready.

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