Candidates Hustle on a Day of Politics and Parades

Anna Hawk, 2, watches the annual Greenbelt Labor Day Festival Parade. Several candidates seeking to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes were also in attendance.
Anna Hawk, 2, watches the annual Greenbelt Labor Day Festival Parade. Several candidates seeking to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes were also in attendance. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 5, 2006

A battalion of candidates fanned out across the Washington region yesterday in a Labor Day tradition of hand-to-hand politicking, and in one week voters will make their first choices in 2006 elections that will radically alter the area's political leadership.

The District mayoral candidates crisscrossed the city, tracking down voters one at a time and changing a few minds in the process. Maryland candidates marched down voter-lined streets in Greenbelt, Gaithersburg and Kensington. Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) rode a brown and white horse named Bubba while Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and former governor Mark R. Warner (D) stumped for Allen's Democratic opponent in the tiny town of Buena Vista, the annual host of the commonwealth's Labor Day politics.

Allen and opponent James Webb are already on the November ballot, but when voters in Maryland and the District go to the polls next Tuesday, they will be choosing from more than 750 candidates in the Washington suburbs and more than 50 names on the District ballot.

There's a reason for the interest.

When it's all over, the District will have a new mayor, council chairman and at least three new council members. Montgomery County will get its first new executive since 1994. Maryland will have a new U.S. senator and attorney general for the first time in 20 years, and its other statewide incumbents are facing their toughest challengers ever. And the suddenly tight contest between Allen and Webb will yield new information about how growth and immigration have altered the commonwealth's political landscape, especially in increasingly influential Northern Virginia.

"One of the things making this election so noteworthy is that there are so many people leaving," said Scott Sterling, vice president for government relations for the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He was referring to the decisions of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., all Democrats, not to seek reelection.

But for all the changes in personnel, dramatically different political philosophies don't appear likely.

"It doesn't look like a radical shift in policies," said Robert E. Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, which is based in Alexandria. He sees the region's growth fueled by immigrants and workers from other parts of the country drawn by job growth, and the resulting diversity doesn't lend itself to candidates who appeal only to bloc-voting groups.

As he puts it: "Characters need not apply."

What is significant, according to James C. Dinegar, president and chief executive of the Board of Trade, is that all of those departing elected officials chose to retire.

"There isn't a throw-the-bums-out [sentiment] in any of the elections," he said.

In the District, though, there is a feeling that there's much work to be done. LeDroit Park residents Cyril Jones and Charles Covington encountered mayoral candidate Marie C. Johns on her campaign walk yesterday, where she persuaded him and a friend to consider her over D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4).

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