Politicians across the Washington region closed out their campaigns yesterday in a blizzard of handshakes, television ads and recorded phone calls. Most eyes were on Maryland, where races for governor and Congress remained wildly unpredictable.
In Annapolis, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and two dozen supporters boldly posed for a photo in front of the governor's mansion, which hasn't housed a Republican since Spiro T. Agnew left in 1969 to become vice president. "Hey, Kendel Ehrlich -- here's your new house," the candidate shouted to his wife.
In Prince George's County, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend worked to stir enthusiasm among Democrats. "Guess why I'm here," she said to employees at the Giant Food distribution center in Landover. "You need the black vote," responded Louis Harper, a freezer-room worker.
In Montgomery County, home to one of the most competitive and expensive House races in the nation, Rep. Constance A. Morella (R) and her challenger, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D), crisscrossed the district in dueling bus tours.
Morella finished up a 36-hour campaign swing on her "Independent Spirit" bus, named to remind voters of her record as one of the most liberal Republicans in the House.
In a show of Democratic unity, Van Hollen campaigned with his vanquished primary opponent, Mark K. Shriver, then hopped aboard his "A Van Haulin' Dems for Van Hollen" coach, which was carrying U.S. Reps. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) and John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), among others.
In the District, the two leading mayoral candidates canvassed the city, culminating in Mayor Anthony A. Williams's scheduled stops at three Northwest Washington bars to cheer along with "Monday Night Football" fans late last night.
Williams (D) also swung by two senior centers, the new Giant grocery store in Brentwood, a Metro stop in Cleveland Park and two restaurants in Southeast.
His chief competitor, D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), rallied supporters at her campaign headquarters and greeted commuters at four Metro stations.
Schwartz, who has been critical of Williams's management and ethics, has run unsuccessfully for mayor three times before, including a loss to Williams four years ago.
Across the Potomac, ballot measures in populous Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads have dominated the otherwise quiet congressional election season.
Early yesterday morning, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R) was at the Vienna Metro station asking people to vote to raise the sales tax to pay for transportation projects -- and to vote for him, as well.
Just across Interstate 66 at the station's other entrance, state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) handed out fliers until he had no more and then simply shouted into the wind for people to vote against the sales tax measure, an increase of a half-cent per dollar.
Both sides say the tax campaign is close, and both sent their supporters across the region, passing out leaflets, fliers and brochures and planting signs along roadways.
Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), the primary champion of the tax increase, attended rallies in Manassas and Alexandria, saying, "We need a chance to solve our own problems."
"We know it's going to be close," Warner told a cheering crowd in Manassas. "We need to make sure we get everybody out."
Virginia voters will also decide whether to reelect U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R), who is running against two independents, and will pick a state senator in a newly drawn Fairfax County district.
D.C. voters will choose council members, and Marylanders will decide on state lawmakers, County Council members, school board members and other elected officials.
If members of the public managed to dodge the legions of politicians in person yesterday, it was almost impossible to avoid their images on the airwaves or their voices in the form of recorded telephone calls.
In Maryland, Democrats and Republicans alike embarked on a telemarketing frenzy, treating tens of thousands of people to recorded phone messages from House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), first lady Laura Bush and even Ehrlich's mother, Nancy.
Former President Bill Clinton's voice worked double duty on the telephone, endorsing Townsend for Maryland residents and backing Williams in the District.
The rhetoric in the governor's race grew more strident as supporters of both candidates handed out literature that made strong appeals based on race.
A group identifying itself as the Prince George's County Black Chamber of Commerce posted fliers featuring a civil rights-era photo of a black man being roughed up by white police officers. It included a quotation from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr: "A Voteless People Are a Hopeless People."
In Baltimore, a group called Democrats for Ehrlich handed out literature in black neighborhoods that ripped Townsend for selecting a white former Republican, Charles R. Larson, as her running mate. The handbills touted Ehrlich's pick of Michael S. Steele, who is vying to become the first African American elected statewide in Maryland.
Ehrlich evoked history at a rally in Arbutus, the suburban Baltimore community where he grew up. "The numbers are very, very, very good," the giddy candidate told the crowd of about 200 people. "We have an opportunity tomorrow to be part of history."
Townsend's campaigning lasted well into the night as she greeted voters in diners from Rockville to Baltimore.
"I feel great," she said. "There is enormous enthusiasm here and across the state."
Staff writers Amy Argetsinger, Steven Ginsberg, R.H. Melton, David Nakamura and Steve Vogel contributed to this report.