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Sure, they know his name: It's American Joe


SALISBURY -- The state senator from Baltimore with the vowel-laden last name made his first major foray onto the Eastern Shore yesterday, scoring points on the gubernatorial campaign trail with his folksy demeanor and willingness to listen.

Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, who launched his bid for the Democratic nomination in November, found willing audiences on a meeting-packed sweep across the Shore.

They fumbled over the last name but remembered what the candidate considers the important part -- American Joe.

"He sounds like a down-to-earth boy," said James E. Cornish, a porter at the Dorchester General Hospital, after a breakfast meeting with the senator in Cambridge. "He's already got a good name."

Mr. Miedusiewski (pronounced Med-a-SHEF-ski) touted his proposals for public safety, welfare reform, school accountability and eliminating the legislative scholarship program.

But what the would-be constituents seemed to like best was that he paid attention to what they had to say -- a tough assignment for some candidates who work a crowd talking, instead of listening.

Between bites of a ham and egg breakfast that got cold before it got eaten, Mr. Miedusiewski answered questions from a group of nine black Cambridge residents concerned about the growing numbers of jobless and homeless people there and state cutbacks in grants to deal with those problems.

The breakfast group was assembled by Lemuel D. Chester, a Dorchester County commissioner running for the House of Delegates, who met Mr. Miedusiewski at a fund-raiser more than a month ago.

"Sometimes you get tunnel vision, representing Dundalk and a Polish district in Baltimore," Mr. Chester said. "[But] I was very impressed with this guy. I never expected to hear from him.

"He's a long shot, but remember 'Harry Who?'" Mr. Chester continued, referring to Harry Hughes' surprise gubernatorial victory in 1978.

Mr. Miedusiewski was unmistakeably the candidate, dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and tie -- a sharp contrast to the men and women who came in their everyday work clothes to check him out.

Yet, in introducing himself, he took the opportunity to mention that he is a grandson of a Polish immigrant who lived in a tenement before starting the family business -- American Joe's bar -- that has survived 70 years.

"He sounds like an honest man, like he wants to change the face of the political structure in our state for the better," said the Rev. Ernest M. Dupree, who operates a transitional shelter for the homeless in Cambridge.

After the breakfast meeting, Mr. Miedusiewski ventured farther east along U.S. 50 to Salisbury, where he taped a half-hour radio interview and then met with the mayor and City Council.

The Wicomico County Council chairman, Henry S. Parker, stuck his head in the meeting.

"Where's American Joe?" he demanded. "I saw you on [television] about a month ago talking about the Big Seven [counties.] There are 16 other counties, and I want you to remember that."

The candidate said he knew that, and wanted to know how he could help as governor. He pledged that, if elected, he will solicit comments from local jurisdictions before submitting his budget to the General Assembly.

"He's willing to come down to the local level before the budget process; he caught my ear when he said that," City Council Vice Chairman Robert L. Gladden said after the meeting.

"It's too early [for an endorsement,] but I'm impressed with his ideas, his background. So I look to hear more about him," Mr. Gladden said.

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