Dems pack Progressive Maryland dinner
By Steven T. Dennis
April 1, 2005
ANNAPOLIS -- Four years after its creation, Progressive
Maryland put its political power on display at the liberal
advocacy group's third annual awards dinner on Wednesday.
The dinner was packed with 600 supporters and featured a
passel of preening Democratic leaders.
Headlined by former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, last year's vice
presidential candidate, who ticked off talking points for his
presumed 2008 presidential campaign, the evening had the feel of
a Democratic Party revival meeting.
"Everybody here wants to make sure we get rid of Bob Ehrlich,
right?" Edwards said, before going on to talk of the need to
keep Paul A. Sarbanes' U.S. Senate seat in the Democratic
Gubernatorial and senatorial hopefuls did not miss the chance
to strut for the audience of committed activists, serving up
traditional liberal red meat about sticking up for the common
folk while dining on filet mignon and crab cakes.
Two of the three biggest Senate hopefuls also vied for
attention at the packed new club at the Navy Stadium: former
national NAACP president Kweisi Mfume and Rep. Benjamin L.
Cardin (D-Dist. 3) of Baltimore.
Cardin spoke against the Republicans' "reckless budgets" and
raiding Social Security.
Mfume, a former Baltimore congressman, delivered a sermon on
civil rights, asking, "Wouldn't it be great if all conservatives
Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington
sent his regards from his family vacation abroad.
The gubernatorial aspirants also got into the act.
"Progressive people of Maryland, are you ready to take back
your state?" asked Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
The mayor trotted out his tried-and-true stump stories about
the girl named Amber who asked him what he's doing about
"Zombieland," the drug- and crime-ridden neighborhood where she
lives, and about Maryland soldiers holding the line during the
He ripped into Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for cutting
child care funding while declaring this the Year of the Child,
announcing a lead paint initiative while cutting aid to city
lead paint enforcement and increasing tuition, taxes and fees
more in 16 months than Democratic governors did in 16 years.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan also weighed
in, whacking Ehrlich on parkland sales and lavishing praise on
Progressive Maryland for pushing wage raises and campaign
finance reform and closing corporate loopholes.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who at times has
dismissed Progressive Maryland as a fringe group while at other
times embracing it, gave a spirited introduction for Edwards and
called on Democrats join together to win back the governorship
"It's a big tent, a very big tent," Miller (D-Dist. 27) of
Chesapeake Beach joked about his newfound friendliness with the
group. "You've got to do what you got to do."
Progressive Maryland Executive Director Tom Hucker joked that
Miller is "one of the most progressive senators -- from Calvert
County," but gave him kudos for fighting to keep jury trials in
medical malpractice cases, fighting to force Wal-Mart to provide
health insurance and raising the minimum wage.
The dinner, which raised about $60,000, also featured an
award for former Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Isiah
Leggett, who is running for Montgomery County executive. Leggett
was introduced by County Council President Thomas E. Perez
(D-Dist. 5) of Takoma Park, who could be running for attorney
general, Congress or state's attorney.
Hucker, meanwhile, denied that the dinner was intended to be
partisan: Republicans and independents were invited, too. The
Gazette didn't spot any.