Tom McMillen's ability to carry the vote on the Eastern Shore in thenewly drawn 1st Congressional District may be in question, but some North County residents let him know yesterday that he's got their support.
A crowd of about 350 attended a fund-raiser and rally for the Democratic congressman from Maryland's 4th District at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.
"It's good to be home," McMillen told a cheering crowd. "In 1972,I was in the Olympics, and I didn't win the gold. The Soviets and Russians stole it from me.
"But on the night of March 3, we're goingto win the gold. And on Nov. 3, we're going to win our second gold,"McMillen added.
The economics of the rally seemed politically correct, as participants were treated to hot dogs, chips, pretzels and beer. Even the decorations were understated. Red, white and blue balloons topped the tables. Campaign posters supporting McMillen, presidential candidate Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Barbara Mikulski lined the walls.
But the mood of the rally was festive. Supporters, young and old, black and white, milled around the room and socialized for nearly an hour before McMillen spoke.
Standing on a platform, McMillen was surrounded by about a dozen of the county's politicians, including delegates Joan Cadden and Ray Huff, and county Councilmen George Bachman and Dave Boschert.
McMillen, who admitted he faces a toughtime gathering support on the Eastern Shore, spent a great deal of time trying to reach each and every one of those who appeared at the rally.
"This is going to be a real tough race," McMillen said. "This is a race for your county."
The congressman, known for his buttoned-down look, loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves. He sat with supporters while eating a couple of hot dogs. He shook hands and kissed cheeks. But mostly McMillen sat and chatted with his supporters before addressing the crowd as a whole.
Supporters still seem to be upset over the redistricting of the county, which combines part of the county with the Eastern Shore, territory represented by Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest. But McMillen, who emphasized the difficultly in winning on the Shore, also emphasized that the voters have the final say.
"We didn't win the battle to divide up the county," McMillen said. "But those politicians forget that they don't vote in Anne Arundel County.
"Say yes to political officials who know you. Say no to politicians who don't know our problems but say they do and then forget about it once they're elected," McMillen added.
McMillen also spoke to the crowd about the lukewarm endorsement he received from The Sun.
The endorsement said "The congressman has disappointed us in several areas -- the politics of redistricting illustrated his difficulties in getting along with the rest of the delegation."
"Maybe it's because I bucked the system," McMillen said. "I supported Desert Storm when my Democratic colleagues didn't like it, when George Bush, our commander-in-chief asked me to back him.
"The careerpoliticians didn't like it when I supported a 12-year term limit. They said 'Tom, don't do this. Come with us.' "
McMillen spoke of the pride his late father felt when the University of Maryland graduatewas named a Rhodes scholar. The candidate said he, too, is proud of his accomplishment because it was an example of the opportunity that exists for many.
But now, McMillen said, that opportunity is limited for many because the government has forgotten about them.
"I don't think we have a president in this country who understands that everybody doesn't have a chance," McMillen said. "If I win on March 3 and Nov. 3, I am not going to forget you."