Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to resolve one of the costliest primary fights in Maryland history and nominate scores more politicians for November's general election.
With experts forecasting low turnout, candidates were out in force trying Monday to lure voters — long accustomed to September primaries — to cast a ballot in Maryland's first June primary since the Eisenhower administration.
"It's really a turnout question in an election like this," said Barbara A. Hoffman, a former state senator and longtime political observer. "The candidates who bring out the votes will win."
The blitz began before 7 a.m. Democratic front-runner Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown was hustling for votes outside the New Carrollton Metro station, clapping his hands and periodically shooting thumbs-up signs to passing commuters.
"Alrighty, g'morning," he bellowed in the style of a carnival barker. "Election Day is tomorrow. It's finally here. Tuesday, June 24, here we go!"
One of his rivals, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, chatted up voters across Montgomery County, where one in Bethesda clapped him on the shoulder and said, "You're my man. I hope you win."
"Thanks," Gansler responded. "So does my mom."
Del. Heather R. Mizeur, the third Democrat in the race, toured Baltimore-area landmarks from Dundalk to Cross Street Market, predicting that her low-budget campaign that's been third in the polls would pull off an upset.
"We are experiencing an incredible surge of momentum," she said. "Something's really shifted in the last few weeks."
The warring Democrats — who have spent more than $17.5 million since Brown declared his candidacy in May 2013 — have engaged in the highest-profile contest for votes.
It is the most expensive primary race ever in Maryland, said John T. Willis, author of a book on the history of Maryland politics and executive in residence at the University of Baltimore's School of Public Policy.
In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin, the victor Tuesday will be favored to win in November.
The negativity that flavored the Democratic race continued Monday, with Gansler accusing Brown of "dirty politics," telling voters the Brown camp was behind negative publicity about Gansler's attendance at a party where teens later said they were drinking.
And Gansler's most recent negative campaign literature landed in mailboxes over the weekend, featuring a graphic that read "Anthony Brown's 'wheel of corruption' "and attempting to tie Brown to a series of Maryland political figures who found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Brown campaign manager Justin Schall dismissed the mailer as a composite of "half-truths."
Candidates in the more genial race for the Republican nomination also crammed in a final day of politicking.
Republican Del. Ron George, who holds the distinction of polling lower than any candidate in either party in the race for governor, doled out his dwindling supply of yard signs and exuded optimism. He said he detected a seismic shift in the Republican race over the past two weeks.
"I've always been a strong finisher," he said. "I think people will be surprised."
GOP front-runner Larry Hogan, fresh off his 14-day bus trip that took him to all 23 Maryland counties and Baltimore, made his only public campaign stop Monday waving to drivers along Ritchie Highway in Arnold.
"Here comes a whole bunch. Get those arms moving," Hogan, a businessman and conservative activist, told the dozen family members in his contingent. "I like when you get the two thumbs-up and the honk," he said.
Campaign aides to Charles Lollar, a Charles County business executive, said he was also busy campaigning but declined to be specific.
Harford County Executive David R. Craig devoted an afternoon to old-fashioned to shoe-leather politics in the Hampton Village neighborhood of Towson, scratching for a few more votes in the county that has more Republicans than any other.
Craig knocked on the door of Robert Stefan, an 87-year-old retiree who had been unsure whether he would vote in the primary at all. But he was impressed by the Harford executive and almost fully won over. "I'm going to vote for Craig unless I read something that says he doesn't have as good a chance to beat Brown as Hogan does," Stefan said.
It's not just candidates for governor who've been swamping farmer's markets, hosting rallies and walking neighborhoods.
All 188 seats in the General Assembly are up for nomination, as well as state's attorney contests in most counties and Baltimore, 15 county school boards, county executives in several large jurisdictions, judges for orphan's court, sheriffs, and a handful of mayors across the state.
Over the weekend, the competitive Democratic race to be Maryland's attorney general had Gov. Martin O'Malley stumping, banjo in hand, for his preferred nominee, Sen. Brian E. Frosh of Montgomery County, at a Baltimore Irish pub. Earlier that day, Del. Jon S. Cardin pitched his own candidacy for attorney general by hosting a get-out-the-vote campaign with his uncle, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. Jon Cardin said Monday his uncle would campaign alongside him Tuesday, too.
Frosh argued in an interview that Cardin seemed to relying heavily on his uncle. "Our theme has been that I've got a strong record of accomplishment and a lot of support, and his is that his last name is Cardin," Frosh said.
"Name certainly helps," Cardin campaign manager Andy Carton said. "But I hope we win because people are informed about the message of each candidate. We've spent a lot of time and money trying to establish his identity and reputation as an individual, not just as a Cardin."
The third candidate in the race, Del. Aisha N. Braveboy of Prince George's County, said Monday she was marshaling her team of volunteers and hoping that sniping between Frosh and Cardin would deliver a victory for her.
"I think it did a disservice to the office of attorney general," Braveboy said. "This is a very serious office."
Candidates aren't alone in the 11th-hour rush to get voters to the polls. Labor unions and trade groups, among others, have been trying to persuade Marylanders to pay attention at a time they're normally focused on summer vacations.
The state's powerful teachers union plans to deploy more than 700 volunteers at precincts Tuesday, handing out sample ballots featuring their preferred candidates. That final lobby comes after a months-long effort with a dual objective: first, to persuade voters to support their candidates; and second, to show up at the polls.
"If you're undecided, you're likely not voting in the primary," said Sean Johnson, political and legislative director for the Maryland State Education Association.
State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat with a reputation as one of the most aggressive door-knockers in the General Assembly, laid off the canvassing Monday to focus on planning for Tuesday for his more than 100 poll workers — and to take his daughter to an Orioles game.
"That's really the best place I can be on the eve of the primary election," Brochin said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.
twitter.com/michaeltdresserCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun