WASHINGTON – Charles County voters can mark “Crawford” three times on their ballots Tuesday and still have their votes counted legally.
Joe Crawford is running for Congress. His brother Jim is running for the Maryland House of Delegates. And Jim’s son Mark is running for Charles County Board of Education.
“If you see a Crawford on the ballot, just vote for him and you’ll be OK,” said Jim, who is running in legislative District 28.
United by blood and their traditional conservative values, the three men share strategies, bumper stickers, signs and phone lines. Their shared Web site houses all their campaign pages and they recently produced a brochure listing all three Crawfords and their issues.
Since Mark, 25, and Jim, 55, live together, they have turned their Bryantown home into a makeshift campaign headquarters. The phone is always ringing for one of them, and callers sometimes have to specify which Crawford they are calling for.
“I’m running for school board, my dad is running for delegate, and my mom is running for the border,” Mark said.
But all three men said they are careful to keep their own identities. They will never put a “Crawford for Congress” sign next to a “Crawford for Education” or “Crawford for Delegate” sign. If Jim is standing near a highway waving to motorists, he will make sure to tell Joe, 48, ahead of time, so he can go to another highway.
“People do have a problem differentiating between candidates,” Jim said. “One guy told me he saw a `Crawford for Delegate’ sign and a `Crawford for Education’ sign and thought to himself, `Man, this guy really has his bases covered.’ We want to make sure we don’t confuse people.”
But Mark said having a mess of Crawfords on the ballot has helped them all.
“If I tell someone I am running for school board in Charles County, but they live in St. Mary’s County, I say, `That’s OK, you can vote for my uncle who is running for Congress,'” he said.
Local election officials said other families have run for office at the same time, but it is unusual. One of Jim Crawford’s District 28 opponents, Democrat Jim Jarboe, has a Republican sister, Toni Jarboe-Duley, running for state Senate in District 27. They have a distant cousin, Larry Jarboe, a Republican running for St. Mary’s County Commissioner.
Charles County Election Director Dorothy Duffield said that in her 32 years on the jobs she could not remember three members of one family running for three separate offices at once.
“There have been similar names on the ballots before, but I can’t think of anything like this where you have a father, son and brother running,” she said.
Although they see each other frequently — Jim and Joe are partners in a company that sells environmentally safe and efficient products — and share the same political beliefs, each Crawford brings a different personality to the campaign.
Mark likes to keep things simple and focus on content; Jim pays strong attention to detail and presentation; and Joe revels in the grass-roots part of campaigning.
They can also be each other’s harshest critics. After Joe debated 5th District incumbent Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, on television recently, his brother and nephew did not hold back with constructive criticisms.
Mark, a member of a national champion debate team at Liberty University, told his uncle how to make his arguments stronger. Jim, whose Web site is the most through and extensive of the three, advised his brother how to look good on television.
With three family members on the ballot, they think at least one person named Crawford will be elected. Jim said the three men will most likely not be together on election night, but they will all share in the euphoria or misery as a family.
“We will either commiserate with each other or be celebrating together,” he said.
Come Tuesday, there may even be a fourth Crawford campaigning. Gladys Crawford, 88, the matriarch of the family has said she will stump for the three in Charles County.
“Who in the world can resist a nice old lady saying, `Will you vote for my sons and grandson?'” Jim asked.