Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) had to fend off questions from other Maryland politicians during the Democratic primary because he supported Sen. John Edwards instead of front-runner Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) or former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

But Wynn is enjoying some political vindication with Kerry's decision to name the North Carolina senator as his vice presidential running mate.

"It was very rough. Some people thought that I was crazy, but now there is a little bit of redemption," Wynn said. "John Edwards will champion the concerns of working-class Americans. He has the ability to relate to the working people, and this will help the Democratic Party relate to swing voters and independents."

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of Kerry's closest campaign advisers, called Edwards an excellent pick.

"Senator Edwards offers intelligence, sincerity and an unwavering commitment to bringing this nation together," Cummings said in a statement.

University of Maryland political science professor Ron Walters said Edwards's selection is the strongest evidence to date that the Kerry campaign will have a southern strategy, trying to peel off some of the states that went solidly for Bush in 2000.

"Edwards's selection makes the Kerry campaign even more competitive in states like Maryland, where Edwards had a lot of support," Walters added.

Leading Annapolis Democrats said they were pleased with the choice.

"He'll be a fabulous running mate," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). "It says volumes about John Kerry, that he is not afraid to pick someone who might overshadow him."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said Kerry's campaign will get a boost from Edwards's youth and dynamism.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) acknowledged Edwards's strengths, including his appeal to Democratic women. But he also said Edwards brings serious vulnerabilities to the table.

"On the down side, he is obviously a trial lawyer, and that brings baggage, and I do not see where he brings any state with him from the South," he said. "I don't see where it helps in the electoral college."

Ehrlich added that Kerry and Edwards make for "a pretty liberal ticket."

"Post-9/11, I think that is a pretty hard sell," he said.

Civil Rights Celebration

When Ehrlich had an opportunity last week to reflect on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he chose to honor his lieutenant governor, Michael S. Steele, the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland.

During a speech on Lawyers Mall to honor the 40th anniversary of the law that ended segregation, Ehrlich said he was not interested in talking about the past.

"Today I chose to honor the present, Lieutenant Governor Michael S. Steele," Ehrlich told the crowd, made up largely of the governor's staff and African Americans who supported the GOP ticket in the 2002 election.

Ehrlich said Steele's "life and times is a living memorial to the 1964 act."

"I would add [that] without the '64 act, Michael Steele would not make Maryland history, indeed American history, in 2002," Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich ended his speech by telling onlookers he was proud of his administration because it is "diverse and talented."

The governor was not the only speaker to discreetly inject politics into the remarks.

During a tribute to his late father, civil rights leader Clarence Mitchell Jr., former state senator Michael Mitchell noted that Republicans in the Congress had been instrumental in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. "Clarence Mitchell Jr. would have wanted you to know that if it were not for the forward thinking by some in the Republican Party, there would be no 1964 Act," Mitchell said.

Actor Charles S. Dutton and Arthur A. Fletcher, a former adviser to several Republican presidents and the first black player for the Baltimore Colts, also spoke.

Two demonstrators also showed up to have their messages heard.

A representative of the Fund for Animals, which has its national campaign office in Silver Spring, endured 90-degree heat dressed in a black bear costume to protest Department of Natural Resources plans to resume bear hunting this fall.

And Rickie Greene of Baltimore staged a one-man rally for gay rights.

Greene carried a sign that read "I am a man" on one side and "I'm Black, I'm Gay, I Pay Taxes, I Vote and I Still Face Discrimination" on the other.

"I just think it is ironic we are celebrating the 40-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and many of us are still being disenfranchised," Greene said. "The same daggers thrown 40 years ago during the civil rights struggle are being thrown today at the black, gay community."