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Mrs. Tell for Sheriff--But What About the House of Representatives?

Help our opinion editor figure out who to vote for in Maryland's 8th district. (And take the poll below, too.)

11:00 PM, Oct 30, 2002 • By DAVID TELL
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THIS YEAR it's really, really bad--so bad that I'm going to admit it publicly and ask our readers for help.

Gearing up for next Tuesday's installment of Your Democracy in Action, the Board of Elections here in Montgomery County, Maryland (Charles Moose, chief of police), has just sent me an "official specimen ballot." I get this rather infelicitously titled mailing right before every primary and general election, with instructions to "study carefully the facsimile, provided here, of the ballot that you will be voting on Election Day and become familiar with all of the candidates and issues." Unfortunately, the Board of Elections offers no advice about how a fella's actually supposed to accomplish this "become familiar" business. So year after year I "study carefully the facsimile"--and experience the same weird mixture of remorse and irritation.

For instance. Next Tuesday I will be asked whether I approve or oppose something called "Question A," which would "amend Section 108 of the County Charter to allow the Council to authorize special legal counsel to advise, assist, or represent any office of the legislative branch without the approval of the County Attorney." I can only guess: There's been some kind of spat about who gets final say over some sensitive piece of litigation involving the county government, and the Council is now proposing a charter amendment that would cut the county attorney out of the loop. As I say, it's only a guess. And it doesn't do me much good deciding whose side of the imagined argument should get my vote: the county attorney, who occupies an office I did not previously know existed, or the County Council, membership on which is also at issue next Tuesday, though it turns out that none of the candidates' names--I take seriously my obligation to study carefully the facsimile--means squat to me.

You get my point. There are also Questions B and C, similarly opaque. And three gnostically impenetrable state constitutional amendments. And an election for Register of Wills, and for Judges of the Circuit Court ("vote for no more than six"), and so on. In all, I count some two dozen races or referenda for which I'll be called upon to cast more than 30 separate votes. And with less than a week to go, I'm still completely in the dark, dumb as a tree stump, for about half or more of them. What to do?

No, sorry, I'm not going to "fully inform myself." Can't really--this is the irritating part. If I were the kind of man willing to drive half an hour to some neighborhood library so I could watch a debate between two at-large candidates for the Board of Education, then I would never have time to write pieces like this one explaining how the at-large Board of Education race is a mystery to me. Watching that debate on local-access cable isn't a serious option, either; I wouldn't want my children to worry that Dad had lost his mind. And while I don't mind being seen reading our nifty local tabloid, the Bethesda Gazette, or the Washington Post, the nation's finest metropolitan daily, neither paper gives me much useful information about whether Raymond Michael Kight, the only name on the ballot for Sheriff, deserves my vote.

So I, David Tell, professional expostulator on all things political, am once again mired in ignorance about the most political thing of all, an upcoming election--which is the embarrassing part, particularly now that I've disclosed it on the Internet.

But I digress. Am I here to discuss how little I know? I am not. Do I intend to eenie-meenie-minie-moe it in the ballot booth next Tuesday? Perish the irresponsible thought. Will I simply leave the more obscure "down ticket" choices blank (a behavioral disorder called "ballot fatigue" that we insiders have learned to expect from especially clueless voters like . . . me)? No again. Instead, as always, I will cast write-in votes for people whose matchless job qualifications are known to me personally. For example: With all due respect to this Raymond Michael Kight character, there's no way in hell he'd be a better Sheriff than my wife. Go ahead, ask my kids.

There's just one remaining problem, and this is where I'm hoping Weekly Standard readers can provide some assistance.

It seems my wife is not available as a candidate, write-in or otherwise, for Maryland's District 8 seat in the federal House of Representatives. It's an "if elected I will not serve" situation, I'm afraid. Besides, just between us dogs: I think she might be squishy on the law of the sea. So, at least where Congress is concerned, it appears my choice will be limited to those names already printed on the ballot. And here I am hopelessly torn--I don't believe this has ever happened before--not because I haven't been paying attention, but because I have.