Stephen J. Del Giudice told voters yesterday they don't need a scorecard to make sense of Washington area politics this year -- they need a pencil.
Especially the kind of pencil Del Giudice was handing out to dozens of shoppers at a Hyattsville grocery store: a sharpened No. 2 bearing Del Giudice's name and the plea, "Pull up Slide No. 10. We do have a choice."
Del Giudice's last-minute, Democratic Party-endorsed write-in bid for the Prince George's County Council was only one example yesterday of the inside-out nature of this political year.
With two days left before tomorrow's election, candidates across the region spent a balmy day encouraging voters to go to the polls after a campaign season dominated by ethics controversies, mud-slinging and the criminal convictions of several incumbents.
In the District, the Republican and Democratic candidates for mayor visited churches in their quests to succeed Mayor Marion Barry, who was convicted of cocaine possession and is now seeking a D.C. Council seat.
In Virginia, Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr., the Democratic challenger in a bitter race against Rep. Stan Parris (R), had four events on his schedule yesterday: church, a party for campaign volunteers, a celebration honoring a man who has worked to help poor people and a fund-raiser. Parris spent most of the day in Fairfax County, making unscheduled stops to meet voters.
Montgomery County executive candidate Neal Potter attended services at two churches, where he said his biggest worry wasn't his Republican opponent but the man he defeated in the Democratic primary, incumbent Sidney Kramer.
"He's the bigger threat," Potter said.
Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, meanwhile, went back to his Baltimore roots yesterday to lift his flagging spirits after a recent poll that showed his support had dropped 10 points in two weeks. Schaefer still holds a 2-to-1 lead over his Republican opponent, William S. Shepard.
Few campaigns were as frenetic as Del Giudice's. When he wasn't handing out pencils, he was pleading for help with a campaign that by Election Day will be only six days old.
The incumbent in the race, Anthony J. Cicoria, withdrew last week after being convicted of stealing campaign money and lying on his tax forms, but his name will still appear on the ballot. Del Giudice, the mayor of Takoma Park, was drafted to take his place as the party's nominee, in part because he finished second in September's primary.
"I know you might not be able to help but if you could, call your friends," he told one supporter, as he wrote a phone number on a scrap of paper.
Carolyn LaLumiere, 36, thanked Del Giudice for running. She said she would vote for him but that she worried that he might have trouble "because you don't have a name like Smith or Brown or anything."
In Montgomery, Potter found himself on the other side of the write-in fence, trying to protect his lead from a bid by Kramer. Campaigning with council member Isiah Leggett, Potter stopped by two Silver Spring churches, People's Community Baptist Church and Round Oak Mission Baptist Church.
At People's Community, the Rev. Thomas Baltimore broke with custom and told church members he would offer no endorsement in the county executive's race except to say, "We do not want the Republicans to win, Amen." Baltimore said he feared his endorsement might reopen old wounds among his congregation of mostly black Democrats, leading to a split vote and an opportunity for Republican Albert Ceccone.
Kramer, meanwhile, held a final rally yesterday attended by about 150 supporters, many of them political newcomers. They cheered Kramer and his wife, Betty Mae, and promised them "a miracle of Montgomery" on Tuesday.
"I'm feeling great, the momentum is all flowing toward us," said Kramer, wearing a neon pink T-shirt given to him by the county's firefighters and paramedics, two groups who have pledged their support.
"We have every intention of being here for at least four more years. If anyone had told me six weeks ago we'd come so far in such a short time I'd have said, 'Mission impossible.' But you've done it, not me," Kramer said.
The governor also displayed every intention of sticking around another four years. He spent the day in the safe harbor of Baltimore while his Republican challenger campaigned in Prince George's and Washington counties.
Schaefer, bouncing between well-attended ethnic festivals in the city he governed as mayor for 15 years, said the Italian and Greek communities "don't forget" what he did for them. The warm receptions given the Democratic governor seemed to buoy his spirits, which had been lagging because of continued criticism from residents of the Eastern Shore of his support for gun control and environmental regulations.
In the District's mayoral race, Democrat Sharon Pratt Dixon attended services in Southeast, first at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Randle Highlands and later at A.P. Shaw United Methodist Church near Suitland Parkway.
Republican nominee Maurice T. Turner Jr. started his day at historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church downtown, later attending services at First Baptist Church of Deanwood in Northeast and Johnson Memorial Church in Southeast.
At First Baptist, Pastor Michael C. Turner Sr. urged his congregation to vote for Turner because of his opposition to the distribution of condoms to public school students and to a proposal to extend to the unmarried partners of D.C. government workers the health and other benefits given to spouses of city employees.
Passage of the so-called "domestic partnership" measure is a priority of Washington's gay community. Dixon has said she supports the proposal and favors the distribution of condoms to students as a way of combatting the AIDS crisis.
"Some of us are of the view that we are going to back the one who believes that woman ought to marry man, and man ought not just marry man," said Rev. Turner, who is no relation to the former D.C. police chief. "We're going to back the one who does not believe in distributing condoms to elementary, junior high and high school" students.
In his visit to First Baptist, Turner said, "I know the church is supposed to be apolitical," to which at least one parishioner murmured "Amen."
Staff writers R.H. Melton, Sue Anne Pressley and Richard Tapscott contributed to this report.