The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

So many candidates, so much mail

Democrat Anne Cross, 70, has been inundated with candidate mail ahead of Tuesday’s primary in Maryland. (Jennifer Barrios/The Washington Post)

Some people keep it in a bowl. Others make a pile on the dining room table. Still others toss it right into the garbage can.

While Montgomery County voters might have different ways of dealing with the sheafs of campaign literature stuffing their mailboxes In the run-up to Tuesday’s primary, on this they can agree: There’s a lot.

“It’s wild,” said Elisabeth Null, a Democrat from Silver Spring who said her stack of literature from candidates for state and local office has reached five inches tall — and grows just about every time the mail is delivered. “Some people I know get very angry.”

A new term-limits law and the county’s public campaign-financing system, in use for the first time this election, have combined to produce a banner year for candidates in largely blue Montgomery, where the Democratic primary will probably determine the winner of most races in November.

Six Democrats are seeking to replace County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), while 33 Democrats have filed to run for four at-large seats on the council — all with their own campaign literature. Some district council races have multiple candidates, too — there are eight Democratic hopefuls for the District 1 seat alone.

Races for state lawmakers, Congress and a crowded gubernatorial primary, not to mention judges, sheriff and the clerk of the circuit court, add up to a seemingly endless list of candidates jockeying for time before voters’ eyes.

“Super Dems” — those who have voted religiously in past elections and so are thought to be most likely to cast a ballot in June — often are especially targeted for campaign mailings.

“There’s an overload that makes it very hard to make an informed judgment,” said Null, 75, who has voted in Montgomery elections since 1996. “What happens when you get so many of them, you wind up liking or not liking people on the basis of how well-written their little page is.”

She said she saves all of the material for her partner to read, too, before they both go to the polls on Election Day.

“This is waiting for him,” Null said of the roughly 200 postcards, brochures and other mailings piled on a chair. “He hasn’t looked at it yet, and it gets more and more daunting for him.”

Tony Avirgan, 73, of Silver Spring — a Montgomery voter since 1991 — said he estimates his stack of campaign mailings to be about eight inches high by now.

“It seems like there’s much more paper this year than in previous years,” said Avirgan, a Democrat who runs a catering business from his home. “Eight to 10 pieces of mail a day. It seems like an awful lot of trees.”

He said he has been tossing all the brochures and fliers into a large bowl — but he still reads what’s sent to him, even after voting early on Saturday.

“I’m interested in politics,” he said. “I want to see what other people are saying.”

Democrat Anne Cross, 70, lets out an exasperated sigh when she thinks about her daily voyage to get the mail — she’s been on the receiving end of 10 to 15 pieces of campaign literature some days at her Kensington home.

After trying to decide whom to vote for and getting “totally lost with all the stuff,” she made an ersatz filing system for herself that involves tucking mailings into folders, which themselves are made from candidate mailings.

While Cross read everything that was sent to her, “I don’t find it all that useful, frankly,” she said. “It tends to be rather superficial. Everybody’s going to sort of do the same things, everybody talks about funding schools and keeping the jobs. It doesn’t tell you who’s going to be effective really.”

She voted Monday during early voting, which ends Thursday, but “it keeps coming,” she said. “I don’t know when it’s going to quit.”

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