By John Wagner and Ovetta Wiggins
Monday, September 11, 2006
On the final weekend before Maryland's party primaries, church congregations swelled with candidates, Rep. Albert R. Wynn 's challenger accused him of more sins and Rep. Chris Van Hollen gave his blessing to a state Senate challenger in his district.
Donna Edwards , who is mounting a spirited primary challenge to Wynn in the 4th Congressional District, said that the Democratic incumbent had "sucker punched" voters by exaggerating his support in recent mailings.
The latest example was a "Women for Wynn" mailing that included Montgomery County council member Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County) in a list of more than 70 supporters.
In an interview, Praisner said Wynn had contacted her directly seeking permission to use her name. She said no.
But "I got one in the mail, and it has my name on it," Praisner said.
Late yesterday afternoon, Wynn said he called Praisner to apologize for what he said was a clerical error.
At least two labor unions -- the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters -- also have raised questions about Wynn's use of their names on his literature.
Wynn lists the two groups among about 40 that "want to send Al Wynn back to Congress."
"We were surprised that our name was on the literature," said Ellen Golombek , director of government affairs for SEIU.
Curt Clifton , a spokesman for Wynn, said Wynn received contributions from the union and the Teamsters with letters of support for his reelection bid. Golombek said she was looking into whether a check was sent to Wynn last year; none were sent in 2006, she said.
She added that the union "elected not to endorse in this congressional race."
Ferline Buie , president of Teamsters Joint Council No. 55, which represents five local unions in the 4th District, sent a letter to Wynn's campaign Friday asking that his literature be corrected because the union has endorsed Edwards.
"We believe [it] is inappropriate and inaccurate to claim that the Teamsters have endorsed your campaign," Buie wrote.
Edwards's campaign also raised questions this weekend about whether Wynn violated rules on so-called "franked" mail.
Regulations prohibit members of Congress from sending taxpayer-financed mass mailings 90 days before an election.
Edwards aides pointed to a "Pass It On" newsletter dated Sept. 8 that was distributed to constituents in Wynn's district, which includes parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
Clifton said the mailing went to about 400 people who had signed up for it. Franking rules apply only to mailings sent to 500 or more constituents.
In a statement yesterday, Wynn brushed off Edwards's questions.
"I have run a positive campaign and have refuted all her desperate, 11th-hour claims," Wynn said. "I am confident that my supporters will not be duped by these ongoing negative attacks."Van Hollen Steps In
Van Hollen (D-Md.) formally threw his support yesterday behind American University law professor Jamie Raskin , who is challenging incumbent state Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D-Montgomery) in tomorrow's primary.
Van Hollen told a group of Raskin supporters in Takoma Park that he had planned to stay out of the race but that the "garbage" Ruben is sending in the mail persuaded him to endorse Raskin.
Ruben's latest mailer includes a photo of a smiling President Bush with a cartoon bubble coming from his mouth that reads: "Thanks Jamie!" The mailer asserts that Raskin helped elect Bush in 2000 by supporting the third-party candidacy of Ralph Nader.
Kevin Zeese , a former Nader aide who is running as a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate, said the attack is off base.
Raskin, he said, advocated an initiative that paired Nader backers who agreed to vote for Democrat Al Gore in competitive states with Gore backers who would vote for Nader in noncompetitive states. In fact, Zeese said, the scheme protected Gore, Zeese said.
Van Hollen called Raskin "a rock-solid, true-blue Democrat."Hopefuls Take to Pews
The front row pews at some of the largest congregations in Prince George's County were filled yesterday with politicians who came for much more than an opportunity to hear the word of God.
"Let me first give thanks to the Lord for waking me up this morning," Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin said after he and several other candidates were given the chance to speak to worshipers at Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale.
Cardin attended midday service with fellow Democrat All a n J. Lichtman and other Senate candidates. He also attended service at the Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington.
The Rev. Grainger Browning , pastor of Ebenezer AME, welcomed the candidates to shake hands with congregants.
Browning said he is hoping for a heavy turnout because "so many people sacrificed their lives for us just to have a right to vote."
Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who is running for reelection, sat in the front row of Ebenezer yesterday in a service that drew other candidates, too. .
The candidates "are beginning to understand and not take for granted the powerful black church. My hope is that their relationship with the church is not contingent upon them getting elected," said the Rev. Lee P. Washington, pastor of Reid Temple AME.
Staff writer Hamil Harris contributed to this report.