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Political picnic draws hundreds, dampened by rain

ElectionsJustice SystemExecutive BranchU.S. House Committee on the JudiciaryMaryland General Assembly

Hundreds of politicos gathered in Prince George's County Saturday afternoon to mix and mingle at an annual event hosted by some of the state's most powerful Democratic lawmakers.

An afternoon downpour cut attendance at the annual barbecue, which for decades has been a must-do election season event on the calendars of candidates and hopefuls alike.

Hosted at the Upper Marlboro farm of Del. Joseph Vallario, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the goodwill gathering both benefits the reelection of Vallario, Del. James E. Proctor, Jr.  and Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller and gives other candidates a chance to mingle with supporters.  The Prince George's County trio have a combined 103 years in the Maryland General Assembly, and a network of loyal volunteers.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat campaigning for governor, worked the tables at an event where thousands have been known to come for old-fashioned glad-handing, stump-speeching and recruitment of campaign volunteers. Comptroller Peter Franchot, under an enormous black umbrella, worked the periphery of the tent. Candidates for state senate, state's attorney, state delegate, county executive sheriff and clerk of the circuit court mingled with volunteers.

Former Gov. Marvin Mandel held court a table beneath a tent. Vallario welcomed guests by having his photo taken with each, at one point jokingly telling one delegate he preferred to only be photographed with the man's date.

This year, state lawmakers moved the primary contest for the 2014 elections from September to June, a change that prompted most candidates to begin campaigning this fall instead of next summer.

Saturday's event was an offshoot of an old-fashioned election year political picnic hosted by the senate president's family since before the 1960's, Miller said. 

"It goes back to my grandfather," Miller said, standing beneath a red umbrella and shaking hands with supporters. "In election years, he would have the state-wide ticket over to his home."

Behind him, a team of volunteers grilled more than 400 pounds of chicken to hand out to attendees, along with watermelon and potato salad. Fences were plastered with election signs, volunteers with dampened clip-boards signed up new recruits and children danced on a stage set up for speeches that were cancelled because of the rain. 

"If it weren't for the rain, 3,000 people would be here," said Edward Proctor, son of the delegate said, reminiscing about the days they hand-painted signs in the barn in advance of the barbecue.

"It's an old-fashioned event," he said. If you want to meet the lieutenant governor, if you want to meet your delegates, candidates, the sheriff, a state's attorney, or campaign volunteers, you can come here," he said.

Even with the weather more than 200 people stuck around to chat and mingle. Tim Murphy, a certified public account from Fort Washington who does work for Vallario, Miller and Proctor, surveyed the sea of umbrellas and quipped, "They really have a lot of support. Or these people really want something."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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