- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

O.K., voters in the district and Prince George's County. It's time to turn up the heat. The Democratic candidates are lined up, and they are making hot and heavy pitches for our votes. But, as the old saying goes, believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

After listening and watching the lot of them, perhaps the best thing is to just pick one issue and begin measuring on that, because, in a few short weeks, we'll be in the voting booths trying to distinguish one candidate from another. Most of us will remember the candidates' gender and last name, and whether he was white, black or other. Many of us will recall what other offices a candidate might have held or sought in the past. Some of us might remember their slogans and key words (and one county candidate likes to say he's "tested, tough, true"), although that doesn't help in the voting booth, because ballots don't list slogans.

Besides, if that's all we remember come election day, we're in big trouble.

News Channel 8 recently televised a candidate's forum with the five Democrats vying to succeed Wayne Curry. I watched the forum twice. Once with volume, and once after hitting the mute button.

County Council member Jim Estepp, for instance, looked a little too laid back. Not confident, mind you, but literally laid back, as if he were at home listening to a son explain why his dad shouldn't mete out punishment for breaking house rules.

Major Riddick, meanwhile, seemed unsure when he should ask or answer a question. He never, as I somehow expected him do with all his years of budget and legislative experience, jumped in and took control.

So I said to myself, "Self, if you were a betting woman who would you gamble on?"

Rushern Baker and Jack Johnson look pretty good. Mr. Johnson, the county prosecutor, is an easygoing white-shirt, and I think he'll do fairly well at the polls. I've never seen Mr. Baker, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, out and about. But I don't hold that against him. That he was endorsed by The Other Paper and might be stepping in his own pooh by being on the state and the county payroll does give me pause, however.

People I grew up with in the District but who have owned homes in Prince George's for years, though, say Mr. Riddick, longtime aide to Gov. Parris Glendening, is the man. They say he knows the county inside and out, and the people who live and work there even more so.

Then there was the Rev. Anthony Muse. I've heard this man preach, and that is precisely the view I took during the forum as if he were in the pulpit and I in the pew. That's not a comfortable position to be in when you're thinking election day.

That's one of the reasons why the Rev. Willie Wilson's entry into the D.C. mayor's race is intriguing. Listening to Baptist preachers preach, or give a eulogy or say the benediction at a public event is one thing. And I've heard Mr. Wilson preach on many occasions. I have heard him preach in the old Union Temple Baptist Church, when the congregation was a couple of hundred, and I have heard him preach in the newer church, where, some reports say, the congregation stands 8,500 strong.

And there ain't nothing like hearing a Baptist preacher preach the word.

But mixing it with politics as an elected official?

I don't need to be reminded of the lifelines between the black church and black America. And, no, I don't need you ticking off a list of names, either. Many are the black preachers who have maintained those lifelines vis-a-vis elected office.

It's just that, well, do preachers ever really and truly stop preaching and, after winning elective office, start leading and delegating? And do we know these guys who are asking for our votes?

Will they propose to raise our taxes next year? Mount further opposition to school choice? Who's on their to-hire list? Do they have the necessary lifelines to a Glendening-less Annapolis? What ties do they have to the business community?

We don't know because we don't ask. We don't take them to task, make them break it down and stop talking to us as if, by osmosis, we get where they're coming from.

Like I said, it's time to turn up the heat and hit the mute button. What you see is what you get.

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