McMillen throws 'old-fashioned' rally in Queen Anne's

People fell from the sky, a congressman engaged in Medieval warfare, a Republican endorsed a Democrat.

Hardly your typical political rally.


About 1,000 supporters and colleagues of U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen filled 4-H Club Park in Queen Anne's County on Saturday night to help the Crofton Democrat in his effort to win the new 1st District seat.

They paid $20 each to attend the entertainment-rich and politician-studded fund-raiser done in what Mr. McMillen dubbed his "God Bless America" style.


Along with unlimited crabs, corn on the cob, beer and soda, McMillen supporters also were served political endorsements from Eastern Shore politicians, former congressman Roy Dyson, state Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr. and U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

"Tom is very able, committed and dedicated. He will provide excellent representation for the 1st District," said Mr. Sarbanes, a Democrat.

The evening featured live country music, a patriotic dance number by nine young girls in red, white and blue outfits and a sky-diving show.

But perhaps the strangest sight was a jousting tournament, in which Mr. McMillen defeated his special guest, Lee Greenwood, a country singer who is best known for the song, "God Bless the USA."

Mr. Greenwood participated in USO shows for soldiers in the Persian Gulf War, and Mr. McMillen helped recruit sports stars for that tour.

"Maryland may be new territory for me, but I want voters to recognize he [Mr. McMillen] has my support," said Mr. Greenwood, a Republican.

Despite the hoopla, however, voters said they were more interested in the candidate.

Mr. McMillen attended the University of Maryland on a basketball scholarship and went to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar. He was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team, and played for the Baltimore and Washington Bullets, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. In 1986, while still a pro player, he ran for Congress and won. He sits on the House Energy and Conservation Committee.


Last year's congressional redistricting put Mr. McMillen, who represents the 4th District, in the same district as incumbent Republican congressman Wayne Gilchrest. The new 1st District encompasses the Eastern Shore, half of Anne Arundel County and a small portion of Baltimore.

Brad Fitch, Mr. McMillen's campaign director, said the congressman officially started his campaign in December and has featured picnics and dinners up and down the Eastern Shore.

"This is an old-fashioned political rally. This is probably our last one in this area and it has the biggest attendance," said Mr. Fitch.

With 108 days until the Nov. 3 election, Mr. McMillen does not seem daunted by the redistricting results. "I am tall enough to stand on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay," said the ex-basketball player. "Let us be a state of one people and a congressional district of one people. This is a campaign of inclusion and standing together."

Most of the 100 or so supporters who traveled from Anne Arundel to the rally were teachers who said they were pleased with Mr. McMillen's stance on education.

"He is pretty down-to-earth and inclusive," said Obie Tucker, a teacher at South River High School and a resident of Edgewater. "He is a man of the people who put forth Democratic ideas."


Mr. Tucker said he believes the congressman has always been an avid supporter of education and has even visited South River High on several occasions to promote community service.

Kate Paolina, a retired teacher from Pasadena, said she drove to Queen Anne's "to show the support for Tom that he has shown for me."

"I am 5 feet tall and when he bends down to me he is never condescending. I feel just as tall as he is when I talk with him."