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Correction to This Article
A July 20 Metro article incorrectly said that Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer did not attend the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. Schaefer did make an appearance at the annual political event.

Tawes Clam Bake Serves Tradition and Candidates

Rick Aguilar of Annapolis cools off with crabs and beer. With the scorching heat, the crowd seemed pleased when rain started falling later in the event.
Rick Aguilar of Annapolis cools off with crabs and beer. With the scorching heat, the crowd seemed pleased when rain started falling later in the event. (Photos By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006

CRISFIELD, Md., July 20 -- Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley had just arrived at the marina Wednesday afternoon when a swarm of supporters wearing green T-shirts and holding green signs began chanting his name.

What happened next seemed all but inevitable.

The Democratic candidate for governor ran smack into a throng of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s backers, clad in white T-shirts, waving navy blue signs and chanting -- at least as loudly -- "Four more years!"

It was a fitting welcome to the 30th Annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake.

One day a year -- the third Wednesday of July -- the center of Maryland's political universe moves 2 1/2 hours southeast from Annapolis to this Eastern Shore city, as candidates make direct appeals to a captive sun- and beer-soaked audience. Never is that more true than in an election year, such as this one, when crowds can swell to more than 5,000.

"It's one of the last bastions of retail politics," said Len Foxwell, a longtime Democratic operative enjoying his 13th consecutive Tawes event, named for a former governor. "You hear a lot about no-spin zones these days. Tawes is the real no-spin zone. No campaign ads. No campaign consultants. Just candidates talking to real people about issues of the day."

And the food isn't bad either. Think steamed crabs, fried clams, corn on the cob, watermelon -- and plenty of beer.

Upon entering the event, set on a sweltering parking lot outside the city's marina, patrons came upon a sign proclaiming, "Eat All You Want. But Eat It Here." Before they could get there, Democratic volunteers offered round stickers advertising O'Malley's run for governor, square stickers advertising Douglas Gansler's run for attorney general and hand-held fans promoting Josh Rales's run for U.S Senate.

There was no shortage of candidates themselves. Stuart O. Simms, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, was among the early arrivals, planting himself firmly in a strategic spot in the parking lot. "Good afternoon ladies," he shouted to a group carrying a box-load of crabs. "Stuart Simms, my name. I'd like to be your next attorney general. Eat a crab for me."

Simms's two primary opponents, Gansler and Montgomery County council member Tom Perez, also worked the crowd.

"By historical accident or intent, this has definitely become the political event of the summer," said Gansler, Montgomery's chief prosecutor, after lathering sunscreen on his nose, cheeks and neck.

With the day's scorching heat, the crowd seemed pleased when rain started falling toward the end of the event.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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