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Vote Anyway: CP's Guide to Maryland's Primary Election

Forget "Electability" for a Minute--Where do Edwards, Kerry, Kucinich, and Sharpton Really Stand?

M. Wartella

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 2/25/2004

Chances are good that when the talking heads go into overdrive on the evening of March 2 they won't spend a lot of their time talking about Maryland. After all, the citizens of the Free State will be casting ballots to determine the disposition of its 99 delegates on the same day that the citizens of states like California (440 delegates), New York (287), Texas (232), Ohio (159), and seven other states head to the polls. With Democratic Sen. John Kerry out in front with 695 delegates to second-place pony Sen. John Edwards' 200, as of press time, Baltimore's potential contribution to the current race must seem paltry to the typically laissez-faire majority of our registered voters. Throw in the fact that there are no high-profile local or state races at stake, just a solid incumbent U.S. senator and a handful of equally entrenched incumbent U.S. congressmen facing little prominent opposition, and you've got a recipe for voter apathy and low turnouts.

We here at City Paper have our moments of political cynicism, too, not to mention plain old laziness. But we believe this is not a good time to indulge either trait. Unless you're already lining up behind President George W. Bush (who is unopposed on the Maryland primary ballot) or a third-party candidate for the November general election, we would argue that now, more than ever, you need to vote with your convictions, not with whatever armchair-pundit Spidey sense people seem to be relying on this season. After all, if your vote hardly matters, as a cynic or lazy-ass might argue, then why not spend it as you please?

In hopes of making up for the overwhelmingly personality-driven coverage generated by of the bulk of our media cohorts, we humbly offer a thumbnail guide to the actual positions and records of the four remaining national Democratic candidates on the Maryland ballot. (Well, we threw in a few fun facts at the end--this is City Paper after all.) In addition, we took a look at the U.S. Senate and House races that affect Baltimore City, overwhelming-favorite incumbents and one-in-a-million chances alike. (We even tried to manage a profile of Baltimore-based Democratic presidential candidate Mildred Glover--she's on the ballot and everything, you can check it out yourself--but her recovery from a recent hospital stay prevented it. In lieu of the ink, we wish her a speedy recovery.)

See you at the polls.


 

John Kerry

Jonathan Edwards

Dennis Kucinich

The Rev. Al Dharpton


Short Bio After graduating from Yale University in 1966, Sen. John Kerry enlisted in the Navy and received a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam. After he returned home, he became a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, testifying before Congress. He also practiced law in Middlesex County, Mass., for five years, first as an assistant district attorney and then in private practice. In 1982 he was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Two years later he won a seat in the U.S. Senate. Now 59 years old, he has served four terms in the Senate and is considered to be the Democratic candidate with the most foreign policy experience of the final four. Born in South Carolina, Sen. John Edwards moved to North Carolina with his family while he was still a boy. He became the first member of his family to go to college, continued on to law school, and spent more than 20 years as a successful trial lawyer working primarily on personal injury cases. In 1998, he ran for public office for the first time, unseating an incumbent for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Critics argue that with just four years in public office he doesn't have enough experience for the presidency, but the 50-year-old candidate contends that his relative outsider status in Washington means that he is more in touch with average Americans. The oldest of seven children, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich was born in Cleveland to a family that struggled financially, occasionally having to sleep in cars. Kucinich began his career in public office at 23 years old when he was elected to the Cleveland City Council. In 1977 he was elected mayor, making the then-31-year-old the youngest ever mayor of a major U.S. city. Kucinich is best known for his refusal to sell Cleveland's municipally owned electric system to a private company, nearly bankrupting the city and destroying his chance for re-election. However, Kucinich was later honored by the City Council for his decision, and in 1994 he unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate with the slogan "Because he was right." In 1996 he was elected to the House of Representatives. An outspoken activist who has focused on race issues, 49-year-old New York native the Rev. Al Sharpton started his public life early. He was ordained a Pentecostal minister at 10 years old and became the youth director of Jesse Jackson's Operation Breadbasket at 14. In 1991, Sharpton founded the National Action Network, a nonprofit organization that raises money to help inner-city youth and fight drug abuse. He has also run for local, state, and national office (U.S. senate), though he has never held a public office. Sharpton says he is running for president because the Democratic Party has become too centrist.

The Economy

Promises to roll back Bush's tax cut for the wealthy while keeping child tax credits and tax breaks that benefit the poor and middle class. Would repeal income tax rate cuts enacted under Bush for all. He says that in his first four years in office he will cut the deficit in half by raising taxes on the wealthy and by eliminating corporate tax loopholes. He recommends creating jobs by investing in technological advancements and new energy sources. He would also create a tax credit for companies that make goods in the United States and create manufacturing jobs. Promises to hold weekly job summits for the first six months of his presidency. Says he would repeal Bush's tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and instead raise the capital gains tax for those making more than $300,000 a year. He plans to use approximately 50 percent of the money saved by repealing Bush's tax cuts to reduce the deficit, though he says no one can promise to eliminate the current deficit in the near future. He promises to create 5 million good jobs in two years by giving employers subsidies and tax breaks if they create jobs in areas with high unemployment rates. He also vows to create incentives for companies to keep jobs in the United States by eliminating tax loopholes and offering tax breaks for companies that keep and create jobs in this country. Wants to repeal Bush's tax cuts and supports a major overhaul to the federal tax code called the Progressive Tax Act of 2003, which would shift the tax burden to corporations and taxpayers making more than $159,100 per year. He says that this plan would yield $20 billion annually to help reduce the deficit. He would also reduce the deficit by cutting military spending and getting out of Iraq. He also recommends tax credits for workers making between $10,000 and $30,000. Plans to create jobs by focusing on rebuilding the country's infrastructure by working on schools, bridges, transportation systems, and sewer lines. He also believes that investing in new energy sources would create jobs. Described Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy as being "like Jim Jones giving you Kool-Aid. It tastes good, but it will kill you." He would reverse these tax cuts and instead create tax cuts for Americans earning less than $80,000 a year. Believes that by repealing the tax cuts he can make a major dent in the deficit. He vows to oppose corporate tax shelters. Believes that creating jobs is the best way to get the economy back on its feet. He has suggested a $250 billion project to revitalize America's infrastructure -- specifically roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, and school buildings over five years, a project he says will create jobs.

Iraq

Voted for the congressional resolution that gave Bush the authority to go into Iraq, but believes that the president should have tried harder to get international support. He also claims that his decision to back the war was based on information given by Bush to Congress that exaggerated the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the safety of the American people. Voted against Bush's request for $87 billion dollars to pay for reconstruction. He advocates a U.N. military force that would be overseen by U.S. troops. Co-sponsored the congressional resolution giving Bush the authority to use military force in Iraq but has since criticized both the president's decision to go to war with Iraq and his execution of it. Says that Bush failed to get the international support necessary to make the action a success. Has said he supports the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq but voted against Bush's request for $87 billion dollars to fund military spending and reconstruction. Advocates the reconstruction being taken over by an international peacekeeping force. Voted against the resolution allowing Bush to go into Iraq, as well as the president's request for $87 billion for military spending and reconstruction. He has created a 10-point plan for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq that focuses heavily on turning the operation over to the United Nations. He also believes that the United States should pay reparations to the families of civilians who were killed in the conflict and calls for an end to the practice of pre-emptive strikes. Opposed the use of military force in Iraq unless Saddam Hussein could be proved to be an imminent threat to the United States, asserting that while Hussein was a "brutal dictator," he didn't pose a threat to our country. He also believes that Bush lied to the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He opposed the $87 billion because he felt that money would be better spent on domestic issues. He considers the current Iraq situation a modern-day Vietnam and says he would immediately withdraw U.S. troops.

Health Care

Vows to create a health-care plan that would immediately provide coverage for all U.S. children and would cover 96 percent of Americans within three years. He plans to do this by expanding the current insurance program for federal employees to include private citizens using a system of tax credits and government subsidies. He estimates that his plan would cost $9.5 billion for its first year. He also supports adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare but believes it must be done without forcing senior citizens to join HMOs. He voted against the 2003 Medicare bill and participated in a filibuster to thwart it. He supports the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada and wants to close the loopholes that stop generic versions of drugs from hitting the U.S. market. Advocates a tax credit that would help parents insure their children and vows to make sure that all children are insured by enrolling all infants at birth in government or private insurance plans. He also recommends providing health-care subsidies for the poor. He would extend the coverage of children under their parents' policies to include 21- to 24-year-olds and would allow people ages 55 to 65 to buy into Medicare. He would repeal Bush's income tax breaks for the wealthy to pay for this plan, which he estimates would cost $53 billion a year. Supports adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. He voted against the 2003 Medicare bill because he felt it benefited HMOs more than seniors. In 2002 he co-wrote a bill to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Backs a program called Enhanced Medicare for All, which would create a single-payer universal health care program which he plans to pay for with a 7.7 percent tax on employers. He opposes the privatization of health care and insists that the country must move from a for-profit system to a nonprofit system to guarantee that all Americans have health insurance. He also supports adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare but opposed the 2003 Medicare bill because he felt it would further privatize Medicare. He thinks the government should place a cap on prescription drug prices and co-sponsored a bill to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. He also supports the legalization of medical marijuana. Advocates a constitutional amendment proposed by Jesse Jackson that would make high-quality health care a guaranteed right for all Americans, but has failed to offer a concrete description of his plan for universal health care or how he will fund it. Strongly opposes the privatization of health care. He believes that prescription drug benefits should be added to Medicare but criticized the 2003 Medicare bill for not meeting the needs of seniors. He supports the legalization of medical marijuana.

Affirmative Action

Supports affirmative action but has come under fire for comments he made in a 1992 speech in which he called the practice divisive. Supports affirmative action and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the practice in university admissions. Supports affirmative action and voted against an amendment to prevent public colleges and universities from giving admission preferences based on sex, race, or ethnicity. A longtime supporter of affirmative action; has criticized his fellow candidates for failing to fully commit to the issue.

Education

Voted for the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, but has since argued that Bush didn't request enough money to fund the program, although he didn't vote on an amendment to increase funding. He opposes grading school performance solely on the basis of standardized testing, suggesting instead that it should be based on graduation rates, attendance, and parental satisfaction. He has opposed school vouchers and voted against a voucher plan in 1992. Voted for the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. He has since criticized Bush for failing to request enough money to fund the program, but missed the vote for a 2003 appropriations bills to increase funding. Opposes school vouchers and has suggested an initiative to increase teachers' salaries with a bonus to those willing to work in disadvantaged areas. Voted for No Child Left Behind and critiques Bush's failure to properly fund the program. He voted for an amendment that would have kept schools from having to comply with the act until it received adequate funding. He opposes and has voted against measures to create a school voucher system. Instead, he suggests taking money from the defense budget to pay for public-school improvements. Claims that the No Child Left Behind Act fails to meet the needs of individual students and opposes school vouchers because he believes they would lead to the privatization of education in America. Instead, he supports a constitutional amendment proposed by Jesse Jackson to guarantee the right to a high-quality education for all Americans.

Energy

Has supported legislation to decrease the United States' dependence on foreign oil, including legislation that focused on creating alternative fuel sources, especially hydrogen-based energy. He voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and promises to create a trust fund for research into alternative energy sources. He has also received the highest ranking among the candidates from the League of Conservationist Voters. Supports greater fuel-efficiency standards for cars as well as finding alternative sources of energy like ethanol and agricultural waste. He voted against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2003 he supported an amendment to decrease the United States' dependence on foreign oil by 1 million barrels a day. Voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He says that he wants to popularize alternative fuel sources like solar, wind, and hydrogen power, and vows to use the National Aeronautics and Space Administration toward that end. He is a staunch environmentalist and a vegan. Opposes the United States' dependence on foreign oil. He told the League of Conservationist Voters that "in terms of dependence on Middle East oil, we are in a hostage situation. The current situation in Washington is so oily it's downright greasy." He advocates greater fuel efficiency for cars as well as the creation of alternate fuel sources. Believes that focusing on creating hybrid and electric cars would not only help the environment but spur job creation.

Death Penalty

Opposes the death penalty except in terrorist cases. He has consistently voted for legislation that supported life in prison over the death penalty. He also co-sponsored a bill that would have given all death-row inmates access to DNA testing. The only one of the four remaining candidates who supports the death penalty. He does, however, support DNA testing to guard against wrongful executions. Opposes the death penalty and co-sponsored a bill that would have given all death-row inmates the right to DNA testing. Against the death penalty in any and all cases and considers the implementation of the death penalty racially biased.

Foreign Policy

Considers Israel an important ally and says the United States must continue to give the country its support. He backs Bush's Road Map for Peace and says that the critical ingredient is reliable and in-depth U.S. involvement in the peace process. He criticizes the Bush administration's erratic handling of the North Korea crisis. He insists that the United States must negotiate directly with North Korea rather than going through our allies in the region. Supports Israel and promises that his administration would take an active roll in promoting peace in the region. He considers North Korea a more immediate threat than Iraq was and criticizes Bush's handling of the Middle East situation. He recommends negotiating with North Korea and offering the nation "something in return" for ceasing to develop nuclear weapons. Advocates a two-state system that would make Palestine independent; he also believes that Israel should stop making new settlements. He believes that the United States' dealings with North Korea have been hostile and have only increased the danger posed by that country. He suggests offering North Korea a nonaggression pact in return for the dismantling of its nuclear program. Advocates greater communication with Yasser Arafat to promote peace between Israel and Palestine; he met with Arafat during a 2001 trip to Israel. He suggests offering North Korea economic incentives for allowing inspections and being open about its nuclear program. He also recommends working with powers in that region to get North Korea's compliance.

Trade

Supports NAFTA but promises to review all U.S. trade agreements in his first 120 days in office. He also wants to focus on improving labor and environmental standards in the countries the United States has trade agreements with. Supports the enforcement of existing trade agreements but opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it sent tens of thousands of U.S. jobs overseas and must be renegotiated. He believes that the United States must include basic labor standards, like the right to collective bargaining and minimum wage and age standards, in all trade agreements. Opposes both NAFTA and the World Trade Organization and believes that the United States must emphasize the rights of workers as well as protecting the environment in its trade agreements. He also stands against Fast Track, which allows the president to negotiate trade agreements without the input of Congress. Opposes NAFTA and says that the United States has a responsibility to have trade agreements that support workers' rights, don't cost U.S. workers' jobs, and protect the environment. He also supports lifting the embargo on Cuba.

Abortion

Claims to be the most consistently pro-choice candidate on the Democratic ballot. He voted against the ban on partial birth abortions and the abortion ban on military bases. He voted to block a bill that, if it had been successful, would have made it a federal crime to transport a minor over state lines to get an abortion. But he didn't vote on the 2003 legislative amendment that overturned President Bush's order to stop funding international organizations that provide abortions and abortion counseling. Says he supports abortion rights, but he has missed several abortion votes during his term in the Senate. He did not vote on the partial-birth abortion bill or the legislative amendment that overturned President Bush's order for the United States to withhold funding from international organizations that counsel women on and/or perform abortions. Originally opposed abortion, but changed to a pro-choice stance in the last two years. His voting record on abortion legislation has been checkered, earning him a 40 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. He voted against the ban on late-term abortion but voted for making it a crime to transport a minor over state lines for an abortion and for the ban on the United States funding international organizations that counsel on and/or perform abortions. Vows to nominate only pro-choice justices to the Supreme Court. In his book Al on America, he wrote, "my religion says that abortion is wrong. And while I may believe that life begins when the sperm meets the egg, and that only God should decide whether to take a life, I will not stand in the way of a woman's right to choose. If women do not have a right to choose, then it's a civil rights violation." He has vowed to uphold abortion rights and to appoint only pro-choice Supreme Court justices.

Patriot Act

Voted for the Patriot Act but has since objected to several aspects of the act. In October, he co-sponsored the SAFE Act [the Security and Freedom Insured Act], a measure to revise the Patriot Act to safeguard people's right to privacy. Voted for Patriot Act and continues to support certain provisions, but says he feels it must be amended to protect the privacy of Americans. He also accuses the government of overstepping its bounds in the enforcement of the act. The only candidate who voted against the Patriot Act. He lists repealing the Patriot Act as one of his major campaign platforms. Along with 20 other members of Congress, he introduced the Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act, which would curb the government's powers under the Patriot Act. Opposes the Patriot Act, saying, "You cannot fight to preserve the land of the free and the home of the brave by canceling freedom." He has promised to repeal the act if elected.

Gay Rights

Supports civil unions in lieu of gay marriage and has opposed an amendment to the Constitution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. He supported the 2003 Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would have provided the domestic partners of federal employees with spousal benefits. He also supports gay adoption, gay individuals serving openly in the military, and sexual orientation becoming a protected category under hate crime legislation. Opposes both same-sex marriage and civil unions but says he will allow individual states to decide for themselves. He does support partnership benefits for same-sex couples, as well as making sexual orientation a classification protected under hate crimes legislation, adoption by gay men and women, and the right for gay people to serve openly in the military. Supports full marriage equality for same-sex couples. He also supported the Domestic Partnerships Benefits and Obligations Act of 2003. He also advocates same-sex adoption rights and the right for gay men and women to serve openly in the military. Supports gay marriage, not just civil unions, and is against making the decision on a state by state basis, opting for federal protection of such rights. He also supports gay adoption, gay men and women's right to serve openly in the armed forces, and adding sexual orientation to hate crime legislation.

Amazon.com sales ranking at press time

Kerry's A Call to Service, 3,889

Edwards' Four Trials, 3,170

Kucinich's A Prayer for America, 7,928

Sharpton's Al on America, 278,105


Theme song

"No Surrender" by Bruce Springsteen.

"Small Town" by John Mellencamp.

"Imagine" by John Lennon.

"Get Up, Stand Up" by Bob Marley.


Midnight toker?

Admits to having smoked pot. Says he has smoked pot. Says he's never smoked pot but that his favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Says he has never smoked pot.

Rock ’n’ roll credentials

Played bass in a surf-rock band called the Electras in the early '60s and has been known to ride a Harley. Began his law career by representing record companies accused of pirating Elvis Presley albums. He has also been endorsed by Hootie and the Blowfish. From Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Toured as a road manager for James Brown and calls the Godfather of Soul his father figure.

The name game Shares initials with another former Massachusetts senator. If elected, he can pretend that JFK Airport was named after him. Of course, he may do that already. Unlike his near-namesake, Crossing Over TV medium John Edward, Edwards doesn't claim to communicate with your dead relatives, although he did once channel a girl with cerebral palsy in the courtroom during a trial. Claims that when he was growing up in Cleveland his nickname was Dennis the Menace. But with so many obvious, if awkward, rhymes with Kucinich the kids on the playground probably called him some other stuff as well. According to the Bad Luck Records Web site, a band called Reverend Al and the Sharptones released an album called Medallion Man in the early '90s. It was their "long awaited" follow-up to Tawanna Be Another Day.

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