COLLEGE PARK — Maryland Democrats and gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown hosted Hillary Rodham Clinton for a rally Thursday at Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland, College Park, just five days before Maryland’s general election.
Clinton, who was unable to attend a Brown fundraiser in late September, just days after the birth of her first grandchild, sent former President Bill Clinton in her stead and repaid her rain check before a partially filled Ritchie Coliseum.
The former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state spoke to Brown’s campaign platform — gun reform, education, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay, and other social issues.
She was interrupted several times throughout her speech by members of the crowd, at least some of whom were upset about immigration reform.
“If they had just waited a little while, I was getting to the Dream Act,” Clinton said.
Local Democratic heavyweights, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr., state Sen. Brian Frosh, U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, along with Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, and Gov. Martin O’Malley, joined her and Brown at the event.
“Bad things happen when you don’t show up,” to vote, Van Hollen told the predominantly college-age crowd.
“Hillary Clinton is in the state of Maryland because every vote counts,” Cardin said.
Forty-five minutes before the doors opened hundreds of students lined routed Route 1 in anticipation of seeing Clinton speak.
“I think it will be a good experience to see the person who’s most likely to be president in the next few years,” said Ben Kates, 20, of Bethesda.
“I’m excited for 2016, and I’m excited for 2014,” said Chris Keosian, 18, of Salisbury.
Keosian was willing to give Brown a pass on the health care roll out, which was plagued by problems in Maryland, saying that new systems need time to work.
Both said they were planning to cast their vote for Brown.
Clinton’s appearance follows President Barack Obama’s Oct. 19 rally at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Prince George’s County.
The Brown campaign isn’t finished bringing in high-profile Democrats, with first lady Michelle Obama scheduled to appear at a rally in Baltimore on Monday.
Some political observers are seeing this as a sign that the election is closer than many expected it to be. Early voting ended Thursday night, hours after Clinton left the campus.
Democrats are hoping the early-vote turnout will push Brown across the line. Early vote numbers from the first four days reflected Maryland’s built-in Democratic advantage with registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans approximately two to one in voter turnout, according to numbers from the Maryland state board of elections.
“Unfortunately we have to work really hard to turn people out in these mid-terms, it’s just the way our system works,” Clinton said. “As you go out and talk to people and urge them to vote, I want you to tell them that really, they may be checking the box next to the name Anthony Brown, but really they’re voting for themselves.”
In a campaign that has been widely criticized as being among the most negative in the nation, the Democratic Governors’ Association has thrown in over $1 million in a little more than five weeks, according to the latest campaign finance filings.
“I think the biggest indicator that Brown’s in trouble was the governors’ association came in and spent more than $1 million on Hogan ads,” said Blair Lee IV, a long time political commentator. “They normally spend their money in battleground states.”
“Isn’t that a two-edged sword? Imagine if no national figures came out,” Brown said during a recent telephone interview. “Oh man, there is concern among national Democrats about what’s going on in Maryland, there are so many competitive races around the country, let’s not spend time and resources in Maryland, right?”
Brown added that there will always be political spin and that he appreciates the support of national Democrats. “We welcome the Clintons and we welcome President Obama to Maryland.”