Eastern Shore Democrats turn out for Townsend visit

April 24, 2002|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

EASTON -- If the Eastern Shore's Colonial capital was hostile territory for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, you wouldn't have known it yesterday, as the all-but-announced gubernatorial candidate picked up endorsements from a dozen Democrats who have dominated recent elections in conservative Talbot County.

Townsend, who received 37 percent of the vote here four years ago as Gov. Parris N. Glendening's running mate, stirred 150 supporters who crowded the lawn of the 200-year-old brick courthouse with a speech that promised an activist government aimed at helping every person achieve what she called their "indispensable destiny."

Townsend, who also made appearances in Queen Anne's, Caroline and Worcester counties yesterday, praised the Glendening administration's Smart Growth initiative, its environmental record and efforts to increase education spending.

Two days after Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signaled his intent to hold Townsend accountable for her oversight of a boot camp program for youthful offenders, Townsend defended her anti-crime initiatives, including neighborhood Hot Spot programs such as the one in Easton that she said has helped reduce crime in targeted neighborhoods in the county seat by 80 percent.

"We have a record on juvenile justice," Townsend said. "We've seen a 28 percent decline in juvenile crime in the last four years. That's the largest drop ever in Maryland."

Del. Wheeler R. Baker praised Townsend's seven-year record of cooperation with leaders on the Eastern Shore -- a region where voters are typically hostile to urban Democratic candidates.

"We on the Shore do not have the numbers of a Montgomery County, but I don't want to live like that, I want to live like an Eastern Shoreman," said Baker. "A Townsend administration will look out for our interests."

Supporters, who included Talbot County Sheriff Tom Duncan, State's Attorney Scott Patterson, four of five County Council members, the Easton Town Council and other party activists, said Townsend's appearance would aid their efforts to overcome a slight edge Republicans hold in voter registration in Talbot.

Political scientist Conway Gregory, a professor at Chesapeake College, said that Townsend doesn't have the option of ignoring conservative and rural areas of the state as some of her gubernatorial predecessors have done, because Ehrlich has strong appeal for conservative Democrats in suburban Baltimore.

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