- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley has begun using an Internet message board to recruit interns to canvass neighborhoods, work phone banks and post yard signs for his Democratic campaign for governor — duties usually performed by volunteers.

O’Malley supporters say he has found an innovative way to fill the never-ending need for unpaid campaign workers.

Critics say the move shows weakness in his organization because he is scrounging for volunteers three months ahead of an Election Day showdown against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election.

“To have to advertise for volunteers I think shows a problem,” said Carol L. Hirschburg, a political adviser to Maryland Republicans. “They are not appealing to enough people. People are not willing to give up their personal time to go out and volunteer for him. … I would venture to say the Ehrlich campaign has so many volunteers they do not know what to do with them.”

Delegate Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat backing Mr. O’Malley, said the internship offer posted last week on Craig’s List, an Internet classified marketplace and community forum, demonstrates the campaign’s resourcefulness.

“Every campaign tries to scrounge for volunteers, just like you never stop asking for money,” he said. “It seems to me his campaign is going fine.”

Mr. O’Malley probably is not alone in struggling to find free campaign help, said Maryland campaign strategist Julius C. Henson.

“In most campaigns today, people don’t volunteer. They want to get paid,” said Mr. Henson, who is advising 23 Democratic candidates for the state House and Senate. “Only two [of my candidates] have an army of volunteers.”

The hunt for volunteers prompted Bethesda businessman Josh Rales, a Democratic candidate in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race, to pay a Baltimore drug treatment center to drive 20 recovering addicts to a debate in College Park, where they hoisted Rales campaign signs.

Using the Internet to find campaign workers is not new. Candidates for every office from state delegate to U.S. Senate are appealing for volunteers on campaign Web sites.

Mr. Ehrlich’s site features a typical volunteer page that invites supporters to participate in activities such as making phone calls, placing yard signs, writing letters to the editor and sending e-mail messages to friends.

“Our primary way of recruiting volunteers is through the Web site and word of mouth,” said Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. “The Ehrlich campaign has always been primarily a grass-roots operation.”

Mr. O’Malley delved deeper into cyberspace by posting an ad on Craig’s List, which receives 10 million visits a month.

The ad invites college students to “work on one of the biggest gubernatorial races in the country … with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in state politics and to build relationships that may lead to future career prospects.”

The posting lists daily responsibilities for interns that include attending political events and fundraisers, working phone banks nightly, distributing campaign materials door to door, assisting in political research and performing office management tasks.

O’Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the mayor had attracted hundreds of volunteers and the Craig’s List ad will spur more to join.

“It is not desperate at all,” he said. “It is just another tool to get our message out. It’s a great way to get in front of people … and let them know how to get involved.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, also placed an ad for volunteers on Craig’s List.

“I think it is a sign of the times,” he said, adding that his campaign has benefited from scores of law students willing to volunteer during summer vacation.

“The Internet is being used by more campaigns in a variety of ways to get out information and to solicit volunteers. … You can always use more volunteers,” Mr. Gansler said.

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