HAGERSTOWN -- He's a college professor who has never held public office and eschews party politics. Yet Don Allensworth considers himself to be a serious Democratic contender for governor.
Don who? Mr. Allensworth, 59, concedes that his is not a household name among Maryland voters. But he contends that he can change that as he wages a decidedly unorthodox campaign.
"I'm not known, so I have to figure out ways of becoming known," said Mr. Allensworth, an investor and planning consultant from Hagerstown. "Name recognition is a problem."
He has campaigned mostly by sending faxes to reporters and making a few trips to shopping malls. He has attended no candidate forums and has never talked to anyone in the Democratic Party hierarchy about his candidacy.
He says he has raised some money, but he declines to say how much. His running mate, Linda Hartman, is manager of the Western Sizzlin restaurant here.
"I am running because I think somebody has to deal with the real issues" that confront Marylanders, Mr. Allensworth said. He said that while most of his opponents are dealing with national issues, he is "talking about things that are unique or special to Maryland. I want to solve Maryland problems."
Those Maryland issues, as Mr. Allensworth sees them, are development, waste management and the environment.
But in faxes to reporters, he expounds regularly on other issues, too. He has raised concerns about or expressed opposition to sewage-treatment plants, bank mergers, airport and battlefield protection, annexation, development rules, welfare reform and the absence of fathers from families, to name a few.
In a recent fax, Mr. Allensworth vowed to change the state song, "Maryland, My Maryland," to "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," a rhythm and blues hit dating from the 1950s and revived in 1977 by George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. Mr. Allensworth has dedicated the song to "the people who are evicted by state courts every week in Maryland."
Is that a real issue?
"Very definitely," he said. "I'm concerned about the effect of unfair laws on these people. Maryland's regulations are biased in favor of landlords and against tenants. This song is about one person's efforts to gather rent money."
Does Mr. Allensworth believe he has a chance in a Democratic primary during which better known candidates are expected to spend as much as $2 million to $3 million each?
"Absolutely," he said. "The reaction I get is that the race is wide open. No one can make the solitary claim of being the Democratic candidate."
Mr. Allensworth dismisses the contentions of those with broader experience in politics who argue that he can't win the Democratic nomination.
"I am giving voters a choice -- a candidate who is willing to talk about the issues in Maryland," he said. "I wouldn't run if I didn't think I could win. My campaign is dependent on getting my message across."
Ms. Hartman said, "I'm just trying to say the working people are concerned about what is going on." The 47-year-old Hagerstown resident said she hopes the two can win the election but that she won't be disappointed if they don't.
"I'm a novice at this and not pretending to be anything other than I am," Ms. Hartman said. "I'm a heart person."
Mr. Allensworth said he and his running mate will wage a more conventional campaign with bumper stickers, brochures and radio ads as the Sept. 13 primary nears. For much of the summer, he intends to campaign in Rehoboth Beach, the Delaware resort that calls itself "the nation's summer capital."
Forget Ocean City. He's after suburban Washington voters, he says.
Mr. Allensworth is the author of several books on state and local government and land use. He has long been a gadfly regarding development and zoning issues in Western Maryland's Washington and Frederick counties.
He is concerned about urban sprawl and developers' influence over the review process. And, despite state and county policies, Mr. Allensworth doesn't think development should be concentrated around existing urban areas.
"A high concentration of population means crime, drug abuse, neglect and lots of other problems," he said. "We don't need that. Properly planned development can significantly reduce crime."
He opposes plans to build or expand incinerators in neighborhoods where people don't want them. He has publicly opposed the proposed expansion of incinerators near Pulaski Highway in Baltimore and Dickerson in Montgomery County.
He has vowed to shut them down if he is elected governor.
Mr. Allensworth, who describes himself as a liberal Democrat, maintains that he has the administrative and educational background to serve as governor. He has taught local government at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and in Maryland, Florida and Tennessee.
Besides sending faxes to reporters, Mr. Allensworth occasionally shows up at shop ping malls in Frederick, Howard and Washington counties to talk to voters.
Even so, he remains largely unknown statewide and locally.
"We haven't received any information about him," said Ralph Gervasio, a Maryland Democratic Party spokesman.
David Poole, chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, said, "Not many people know him. Politically savvy people shrug and say, 'That's Don.' No one here takes him seriously."
Mr. Allensworth's opponents in the primary include Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening; Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg of Baltimore County; state Sens. American Joe Miedusiewski of Baltimore and Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County; and Lawrence K. Freeman of Baltimore, a follower of Lyndon H. LaRouche.