Bill Bradley's campaign for president is off and running in Prince George's County, with three campaign co-chairs from different points on the political compass and a herd of grass-roots volunteers.
County Council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton), an unabashed old-style liberal; lawyer and former legislator Timothy F. Maloney, of Beltsville; and State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson have signed on to lead the Bradley campaign in Maryland's second-most-populous county.
"The beauty of Bill Bradley," said Maloney, who chaired the county's tricentennial in 1996, "is that he speaks to all ends of the spectrum. People that couldn't agree on what time of day it is agree on Bill Bradley."
"I've watched Bradley over the years," said Johnson, an African American who grew up poor in South Carolina. "He's willing to talk about the race issue and how important it is for this country to work through it."
Hendershot, who previously served on the school board, said the former New Jersey senator and basketball star is "obviously not the product of image makers. . . . He's taken a more progressive approach, at least during this campaign season. I also think it's important to have a president who can make a jump shot."
While those backing Vice President Gore have yet to form an organization in Prince George's, as many as 200 people have signed up to campaign for Bradley in the weeks leading up to the March 7 state primary, according to Justin Ross, a commercial real estate agent and county field coordinator for Bradley.
"We're looking to have 500 come out by January," Ross said. Campus groups at Prince George's Community College and the University of Maryland are "up and running," he said.
The Bradley effort got underway Oct. 6 with an organizational meeting at the community college that attracted about 45 backers. Then several local officials attended a luncheon Oct. 11 at BET Sound Stage in Largo, addressed by Ed Turlington, deputy national campaign manager.
On Oct. 27, about 75 backers returned to the Largo campus to watch the televised New Hampshire debate between Bradley and Gore. Bradley supporters also leafletted a statewide Democratic Party get-out-the-vote event Nov. 6 at the Prince George's Equestrian Center. The same weekend, 15 or 20 Prince Georgians for Bradley journeyed to New Hampshire to join the campaign there.
"It's pretty broad-based," Maloney said of the Prince George's effort. Maloney was a co-host of a Bradley fund-raiser Sept. 17 at the Chevy Chase home of Stewart Bainum Jr., former state senator and hotel mogul, where $160,000 was raised.
Hank Arrington, community service director for Johnson, said he has also signed on with Bradley. "You figure that a guy with his background who has traditionally worked with African American athletes has a real understanding of some of the problems facing minorities," Arrington said, "and he's his own man."
Many of the elected leaders, however, are, for now, in the vice president's camp. These include U.S. Reps. Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th District) and Albert R. Wynn (D-4th District), and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Clinton).
"I was with Gore [for president] in 1988," said Miller. "He's just outstanding. He's done a fine job as vice president of the United States. I think the party owes him the nomination. He'll be a great president."