Campaigns Are Primed To Storm D.C., Md.

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By Lori Montgomery and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 11, 2006

When the polls open tomorrow at 7 a.m., an army of campaign workers unprecedented in D.C. politics will march onto the streets and into the polling places of Washington to turn out the vote for mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty.

Over 17 months, Fenty's team has crisscrossed the city, knocking on doors, taking names and assembling a database of 45,000 supporters -- enough to win the election in an average year. Now, in the biggest and most highly synchronized vote drive in city history, Fenty is ready to deploy a phalanx of callers, a fleet of mobile command units and more than 1,000 professional and volunteer campaign workers to drag those people to the polls.

Fenty's chief rival in the Democratic primary, Linda W. Cropp, is mobilizing her own battalion of poll workers, and she says she will have hundreds of volunteers on the streets and on the phones. But Cropp aides acknowledge that they cannot match the sheer number of Fenty foot soldiers. They say they are devising tactics to minimize his advantage but declined to give details. "He has his strategy, and we have ours," Cropp said.

In the District and Maryland, dozens of candidates for state and local office spent yesterday blitzing voters with phone calls and visits, as well as assembling their troops for tomorrow's primaries. For any candidate, identifying supporters and getting them to the polls become the heart of the campaign. Races are often won or lost on the length of voter lists and the strength of field operations, political analysts say.

In Maryland's U.S. Senate race, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) launched a massive drive over the weekend to knock on the doors of 75,000 targeted voters and to place live calls to 250,000 more, his campaign reported. Tomorrow, Cardin plans to deploy 1,250 workers to bring out the vote across the state.

Cardin's leading opponent in the Democratic primary, former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, is relying heavily on mobilizing black churchgoers. Yesterday, as Mfume appeared at churches across the Baltimore region, his campaign was distributing more than 60,000 brochures, many of them at "megachurches" in Baltimore and in heavily Democratic Prince George's and Montgomery counties, campaign aides said.

Cardin, too, kept a busy schedule, barely stopping to smell the sizzling ribs in supporter Robert Horton's Baltimore yard before picking up a microphone Saturday.

"With your help, I will be Maryland's next United States senator," Cardin told 50 people sitting in beach chairs and gathered at picnic tables at the first of six weekend rallies. Sunday took him to Prince George's for a morning of church services.

With about 285,000 registered Democrats, the District's primary electorate is barely one-sixth the size of Maryland's. But Fenty plans to put nearly as many workers on Washington's streets as Cardin plans to scatter across Maryland. And it will be twice as many as Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) used to secure victory in 1998.

"Adrian Fenty is going to have a massive operation . . . much more extensive than anything I ever did," said council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who used get-out-the-vote tactics to great success in his four runs as mayor. Last week, Barry endorsed Fenty.

All told, Fenty has as much as $500,000 budgeted for the final push, which includes phone banks and expanded airtime for his TV and radio ads. Expect to see Fenty, for example, at least twice during tonight's Washington Redskins game, aides said. By comparison, Cropp had less than $200,000 in the bank last week, according to campaign finance reports.

Fenty field coordinator Tom Lindenfeld said this year's mayoral race requires an enormous, finely calibrated get-out-the-vote drive because there are few obvious markers by which to target voters. In 1998, when Lindenfeld worked for Williams, he said he was able to drum up votes by beating the bushes for white voters citywide and residents of affluent Northwest Washington, the core of Williams's support.


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