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Challenger to Wynn Hopes For Edge From Internet Buzz

Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) says that his record in Congress, while not perfect, is solid, and that most of his donors are from Maryland. Challenger Donna Edwards, right, says that it's time for a change and that Wynn is beholden to corporate donors.
Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) says that his record in Congress, while not perfect, is solid, and that most of his donors are from Maryland. Challenger Donna Edwards, right, says that it's time for a change and that Wynn is beholden to corporate donors. (Photos By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2007

In front of a crowd of several hundred cheering supporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) clasped hands with Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) last weekend and declared that it was a "political and personal pleasure" for her to endorse his run for a ninth term in Congress.

For Wynn, the Nov. 3 fundraiser was a chance to demonstrate his party bona fides and the benefits of his seniority, which has brought him the chairmanship of a subcommittee and new visibility as part of Congress's Democratic majority.

But for liberal bloggers across the country who have embraced his leading opponent in the Feb. 12 Democratic primary, Fort Washington lawyer Donna F. Edwards, it had exactly the opposite effect.

"It reinforced what we like to call the incumbent protection racket," said Jane Hamsher, who runs the site Firedoglake.com.

Hamsher was so angered by the Silver Spring event that she joined Matt Stoller, who edits Openleft.com, in organizing an online counter-fundraiser for Edwards, 49, who surprised many by coming within three percentage points of knocking off Wynn in September 2006.

Over the course of a few days, they raised more than $100,000 for their candidate, the two said. Much of it came from several thousand small online donations by contributors who do not live in Wynn's congressional district, which includes much of Prince George's County and part of eastern Montgomery.

Republicans have little chance of picking up the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Yet the congressional race there has quickly become one of the most analyzed races in the bluest corners of the Internet, emblematic of an effort to nudge Democratic leaders to move more quickly in confronting corporate interests and ending the war in Iraq.

"We elected a Democratic majority last November, and the war still hasn't ended," Hamsher said. "We keep seeing more of the same old, same old, and until candidates like Donna start to get in. . . . I don't think we'll see change."

Edwards's enthusiasts argue that Wynn, 56, is beholden to corporate donors. They blast him for voting for a President Bush-backed bankruptcy bill, to repeal the estate tax and to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

Wynn's supporters caution against making too much of the online buzz, saying the efforts might result in campaign dollars but cannot guarantee votes. Admittedly surprised by Edwards's upstart effort last year, Wynn has redoubled his efforts to show up at every possible place voters gather in his district and highlight progressive parts of his record.

Wynn, who is from Mitchellville, has been pushing to impeach Vice President Cheney. He voted to require that troops be withdrawn from Iraq. He also brags about his role in pushing the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill, recently vetoed by President Bush, as well as a program that provides grants to local governments that are trying to save energy.

He argues that mainstream Democrats will take Pelosi's endorsement as a sign that he's a good advocate for the party and points to other key endorsements, including one this week from abortion rights group NARAL.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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