Townsend spends 1st full campaign day among familiar faces

Gubernatorial hopeful pays visit to Baltimore-area sites

May 07, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend spent her first full day as a gubernatorial candidate among friendly Baltimore-area faces yesterday, visiting a city Head Start center, a Brooklyn Park elementary school and other spots she's toured dozens of times since taking office in 1995.

Townsend staffers and volunteers did their best to generate excitement for their candidate a day after her formal announcement. They chanted her name in an impromptu parade between the pizza and fried chicken stands in Lexington Market, and steered admirers her way as she mingled at Harborplace.

But on a slightly humid spring day with the election six months away, it was unclear if Townsend won any votes.

Throughout the day, she reinforced her long-standing interest in crime-fighting programs and her campaign emphasis on education.

"I've been all over the state for the last eight years. There's probably very few communities or groups that I haven't dealt with in some way," she said. "That wasn't my first visit to Brooklyn Park. That was one of many visits to Brooklyn Park."

Campaign staffers said Townsend will not begin to release major policy statements for about two weeks. Instead, her introductory tour through different parts of Maryland will continue this week.

During a swing through Lexington Market, a wave of Townsend backers stunned a lunchtime crowd as they tore through the aisles, inserting campaign brochures into hesitant hands with mixed results.

Asked for her impression of the lieutenant governor, Arlene Davis, a 39-year-old baker from Baltimore, said, "I'm not familiar with her."

But others said they have seen and heard good things, and would give their support. "My grandmother said she saw her on TV the other day, and she had a lot of good things to say," said Batrynia Washington, 22, working at the Sausage Master stand. "I gotta go with my grandmother. She's the wisest one in my family."

Townsend began her day over eggs and coffee with Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings at Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point, a traditional launching point for political campaigns.

Schaefer has not yet formally endorsed the lieutenant governor but said that she hit the right chord in her kick-off speech Sunday, which stressed the accomplishments of the two-term Glendening-Townsend administration. "She didn't over-promise," he said.

On Druid Hill Avenue, Townsend struck a religious note as she addressed a meeting of community leaders at Union Baptist Head Start.

"I believe that God put us on earth for a special reason," she said. "That is best realized by what we do for others. God has given us gifts, but on earth, we have to make God's work our own."

Townsend arrived at Park Elementary School in Brooklyn Park during the school's Cinco de Mayo festivities celebrating Mexican heritage. She helped pupils swing at pinatas and quizzed John Wheeler's second-grade class on the history of the holiday. They scored high marks, but faltered a bit in their knowledge of just who Townsend is.

"Are you married to the FBI guy?" asked Freddy Pritz, 7. "Mr. Wheeler said you were." The teacher said Freddy was confusing two stories. Townsend is married to a college instructor, David Townsend.

At Harborplace, Townsend posed for snapshots with visitors from Michigan as others sat nearby reading USA Today, which ran a front-page story on her as the leading Kennedy of her generation.

"Your father was an inspiration," said one man as he clasped Townsend's hand.

Townsend said she was riding high after the weekend campaign launch, and that she could maintain the excitement through a long campaign - possibly against Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in a Democratic primary and against Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the expected GOP nominee.

"There's a great sense of doing something important, and doing something meaningful, and that sustains us," she said.

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