Appearances, as they say, count. That's why Prince George's Del. Albert Wynn, in addition to drafting bills and writing constituents -- all the serious work of a man who wants to move up -- has a twice-weekly date with a Nautilus machine.
"I'm trying to slim down," said Wynn, a 32-year-old Democratic lawyer with a figure, he admits, that bespeaks a prosperity he has not yet obtained. "That or I'm dyeing my hair -- at the temples."
Thin is in throughout the Maryland General Assembly this year. Although more than a year remains before election season officially starts, lawmakers are taking seriously the old saying that apparel -- as well as waistlines, hairdos, facial hair, and hair length -- oft proclaims the man, or woman. Diets are debated between bills, waistlines are compared and beards contemplated.
Some, it is said, are taking the extreme step of forswearing drink -- all under the theory that voters, even at the local level where television is not a major influence yet, prefer their state officials svelte and healthy.
Said Wynn, who wants to be a state senator, "A lot of people tell me losing weight would enhance my political prospects. I have no idea why."
He isn't the only one sprucing up. Democratic Del. Lucille Maurer, already engaged in a tight race with fellow over-60 Del. Idamae Garrott (D) for an expected state Senate vacancy in Montgomery County, has a new haircut. With, it must be said, a hint of tint.
"Everybody was teasing me," said Maurer. "They said it looked like Geraldine Ferraro's." Maurer is also keeping a sharper eye out for sales to beef up her wardrobe of Chanel-like suits and silk blouses. It's unclear what Garrott's counter-wardrobe strategy will be.
Secretary of State Lorraine Sheehan, positioning herself to be chosen a lieutenant governor nominee, has given up her beloved ponchos and colored stockings for suits and bland, neutral hose.
And Democratic Del. Gene Counihan, a Montgomery County assistant principal with a Santa-sized girth, is gearing up for an expected weight loss of 100 pounds. He lost that amount for his 1982 race but has munched it all back to tip the scales "over 300," he said.
"I will be lean for the next election," he declared. His issues-conscious Montgomery district notwithstanding, "There's a prejudice for pretty people. I think there are a lot of 'sizists' in the world who discriminate based on size. And I think we have a health-conscious society, and people who don't take care of themselves; well, I think that offends some people."
The Counihan beard -- however it plays -- stays, he said. "I may have lost some votes because of it . . . . At some point I might shave it off, but it won't be a political decision."
Some people, naturally, say they do not consider such matters, at least not yet. "It's actually tacky to be thinking about campaigning," sniffed Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George's). "You've got a four-year commitment and if you're too busy thinking about campaigning you're obviously not doing what you should be doing."
Added Sen. Thomas O'Reilly (D-Prince George's), "It's just too early. If you're going to lose weight, you'll do it while you're campaigning." O'Reilly has, however, given up alcohol, although he insists the move was unrelated to his reelection chances.
While many candidates are doing all they can to match their look to public expectations, others are working to accept their limitations. Take state Attorney General Stephen Sachs, a Democratic gubernatorial contender just back from a week's trip to Barbados. "I've got the tan," said the diminutive Sachs, "now all I've got to do is grow."