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Long-shot Democrat takes 20% of votes


A retired grocery clerk and his running mate - who until recently was homeless - received about a fifth of the vote in the Democratic primary for governor against a Kennedy who outspent him by 2,300-to-1.

With 98 percent of the precincts reporting this morning, Robert R. Fustero, 51, from Rockville, had 20 percent of the vote in his long shot bid to defeat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Fustero's running mate is Linda J. Atkins, a 43-year-old College Park woman who lived in a tent for most of the past decade.

Fustero's surprisingly strongly showing came despite spending less than $1,000 - including the $295 filing fee - on his campaign. Townsend spent $2.3 million through the end of last month, according to campaign-finance reports.

"It's not bad," said Fustero, who retired last year after a 28-year career as stock clerk at a Giant Food store in Bethesda. "It just shows there is a strong segment out there that is not happy. It is pretty bad when one-fifth of Democrats are not happy with Kathleen."

Fustero campaigned as a populist Democrat who wanted to cut taxes for lower-income workers and increase taxes on cigarettes, gas and alcohol. On social issues, Fustero supports the death penalty and gay rights, but is opposed to new gun restrictions and abortion.

Fustero conceded that most people didn't care about his stances when they voted for him. He said he believes he did best in the Baltimore suburbs, where polls show Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the GOP nominee, running strong against Townsend.

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