Battlefield is tense but good-natured at fourth Congressional district debate
It's a weekday in the SAC and the whole room is abuzz with excited chatter. Several crude but enthusiastic posters, the spitting image of Spirit Week propaganda, are slung across the backs of chairs. People file in slowly and sit with their friends and acquaintances, but this isn't a typical lunch period — this motley crew of excited constituents, all hailing from the fourth voting district in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, are here at Blair to hear a debate between the candidates for the Democratic nomination to Congress for the upcoming Congressional election.
This year's debate, organized by the Greater Silver Spring Democratic Club (GSSDC), was held in Blair's SAC at 7:30 p.m this past Thursday. The arguments were mediated by local newscaster Bruce DePuyt of Channel Eight fame, and featured candidates Albert Wynn, Donna Edwards, Jason Jennings, George Mitchell and George McDermott.
When incumbent Albert Wynn first strides towards the makeshift podium, he is greeted with thunderous applause from all sides: some brandishing Wynn banners while others point to their t-shirts that proudly bear the congressman's logo across the chest. Parked right in the center of the Wynn hubbub, junior David Harris (notably sporting his own Wynn couture) has been waiting a good hour and a half for the debate to begin. "I'm here to support Al Wynn for Congress," he announces. "[Wynn is] trying to stop the Iraq war and get our troops out of there, and I feel he's done a good job communicating the issues." It's not quite as cutthroat as a spirited pep rally, but between the hooting voters and the smiling political figures, the tension is almost as palpable.
If the Wynn contingent is the most vocal of all present groups, the Donna Edwards supporters are the more creative: Edwards fans have staked out the right side of the SAC and chant their own war cries as the candidates arrive. Yellow pieces of poster-board bearing emblems like "Time for a Congresswoman," and "Donna is her name!" dominate this quadrant, and the loyalty is well-reasoned: "I believe in who she is as a candidate," says Edwards campaign communications director Dan Weber. "She's a great leader, she's bringing change and she honors what she's fighting for."
Even though it's clear from the audience that few voters have arrived undecided on a candidate, Paul Mitchell, another main sponsor for the GSSDC, maintains that the debate is a significant means to connect candidates with their voters. "It was a close primary last time, and because of all this interest it's important to get the candidates together again," he says as he scans the crowd, looking for audience members that wave index cards ascribed with their own challenging questions.
Swiftly, DePuyt silences the crowd as he assumes a small table on the stage of the SAC, marking the beginning of the deliberations. He lays down the ground rules (opening statements are two minutes for each candidate, the mediator reads questions submitted on cards and others) before looking out at the excited audience with a newscaster grin. "I encourage wild applause at the candidate of your choice," he says impishly.
Let the races begin.
Brittany Allen. Brittany Allen is a sleep-deprived CAP SENNNNNIOORRR with a penchant for treading the boards in the Blair auditorium floor. When not spreading the love in Silver Chips Online, she acts as co-director of Blair's Young Thespian club with the fabulous and all-powerful Caitlin Schneiderhan. She … More »