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Senate candidates among those making the scene at the Crisfield crab feast

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, right, chats with Maurice Simpson Jr. on Sept. 27 at the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake at Crisfield in Somerset County. Photo by William J. Ford.

Thanks to a break from tradition, the usually sweltering summer heat at the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake now offers a cool, comfortable fall breeze, where Maryland’s political establishment can still campaign, catch up and congregate in Crisfield.

On Wednesday in the town of 2,500 in Somerset County, the energetic level of politicking didn’t overtake the aroma of fish sandwiches, fried clams and oysters.

That was the fare available to regular crab feast attendees. But for political insiders, other delicacies such as an Orange Crush, crab dip and Smith Island Cake, the official dessert of Maryland, were tucked underneath the circus-sized tent of lobbyist Bruce Bereano.

“This is the mayor right here,” Crisfield Mayor Darlene Taylor said jokingly to Bereano outside his tent.

“No, I’m not. We’re here to relax and enjoy ourselves,” Bereano said.

Crisfield, ready for its annual close-up

This year’s event at the Somers Cove Marina, sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce and named for an ex-governor who hailed from Crisfield, is less than eight months away from the May primary election. So there was some campaigning in evidence Wednesday.

The only statewide race in the upcoming presidential election year features candidates who seek to replace longtime Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who announced earlier this year he doesn’t plan to run for reelection.

Two of the Democratic candidates — Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando — congregated with dozens of other state, county and local officials under the Bereano tent.

Exactly one week ago, Jawando’s campaign announced four fellow progressive Democrats — three from Prince George’s and one from Baltimore City — support his campaign.

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, right, greets a woman Sept. 27 at the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake at Crisfield in Somerset County. Howard County Executive Calvin Ball looks on. Photo by William J. Ford.

Within the past four days, Jawando announced the endorsements from actor and activist Kerry Washington and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), a registered nurse with an underdog political story.

During an interview after eating some baked and fried chicken, crab dip, fruit and vegetables, Jawando said he’s proud to not be the “established candidate.”

“People are hungry for a new generation of leadership,” Jawando said. “I just think we’re at a unique time in history where everything’s on the line… and that’s what I think you’ve seen with some of these endorsements, people coming out and saying, ‘We got to do something different.’”

As Jawando was driving to the crab feast, his campaign released a policy agenda that outlined several issues such as education, criminal justice reform, “build[ing] an anti-racist society” and people-centered transportation and infrastructure based on four themes: prosperity, justice, opportunity and dignity.

The highlights include abolishing the filibuster, establishing a federal guaranteed income program, incentivizing rent stabilization, providing Medicare for All, funding national pre-K for all, federally legalizing recreational marijuana, and more.

“It’s having a bold vision, a progressive vision, one that says we can do big things, but we need someone who knows how to get them done,” he said. “But it’s also really rooted in a shared prosperity at a moment where Marylanders [and] Americans have never had a higher level of insecurity and instability.”

Both Jawando and Alsobrooks, who seek to become the first Black senator from Maryland, had their campaign signs posted outside Bereano’s tent.

Alsobrooks also seeks to make history as the third Black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

A few of Alsobrooks’ campaign staff and supporters accompanied her to Crisfield, sporting lime-green T-shirts with her name emblazoned in black letters.

Of the Democratic Senate contenders, Alsobrooks has far and away the most support from fellow elected officials.

The Alsobrooks campaign announced last week that the endorsement from Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-4th) represented her 100th endorsement. She also has additional support from Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-5th) and Kweisi Mfume (D-7th) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D).

Several of Alsobrooks’ supporters were on hand at the crab feast Wednesday.

“I’ve been able to encounter a number of people who have endorsed me, and each has mentioned an activity or an opportunity for me to come meet people in their part of the state,” she said. “That’s the power of the endorsement… My endorsers are not just people knocking on doors, they also expose me to their networks, whether it’s their synagogue, or mosque. Whether it is somebody in their neighborhood. That’s the power of it. It helps out to spread our grass-roots effort.”

Alsobrooks notably did not eat at the crab feast — though she did grab a piece of Smith Island cake for the road. Later, she posted pictures of her visit to an Eastern Shore farm stand.

One of the other top Democratic candidates, Rep. David Trone (D-6th), wasn’t in attendance. His campaign said he had to remain on Capitol Hill to vote. The campaign said in an email Tuesday the congressman “has maintained a heavy travel schedule” at community events across the state.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Heidi M. Anderson talks about her institution Sept. 27 at the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake at Crisfield in Somerset County. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Alongside tents from businesses and political organizations set up in the marina’s parking lot, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) had a tent, where the school’s president was happy to tell anyone who walked by about her campus, one of the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities.

Nearly two dozen members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland toured the campus early Wednesday, which put a smile on the face of UMES President Heidi M. Anderson.

The school, with an enrollment of 2,844, is the state’s only college with an aviation program and one of 19 land-grant institutions in the nation to have one.

“What we try to do is come out here to Tawes crab bake to attract people to tell them about our signature programs. We have eight health professional programs and we are about to get a ninth,” Anderson said. “We’re so pleased that the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus passed through our campus…and [members] had a chance to talk and learn all about UMES and learn all about the fantastic things we’re doing.”


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Senate candidates among those making the scene at the Crisfield crab feast