WASHINGTON – Progressive Democrats’ leading light, former presidential candidate George McGovern, has lent his name and his clout to “genuine liberal” Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Allan Lichtman.
The former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate this week endorsed Lichtman, an American University history professor who is fighting for name recognition in a crowded race dominated by established politicians to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.
McGovern, who was a professor in the 1940s at his own alma mater, Dakota Wesleyan University, admitted to be being slightly “biased” toward a fellow member of the academic community, but has been a Lichtman fan since the two worked together in the 1970s.
“I think he’s a great teacher and a good scholar and the guy I’d like to see to go to the Senate,” McGovern said. “He’s a genuine liberal in the best sense of the word.”
McGovern, who lost the 1972 election in a landslide to incumbent Richard Nixon, was a member of the party’s ultra-left and a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War. He now works as the United Nations Global Ambassador on Hunger.
Lichtman, who in the 1970s wrote several campaign biographies and worked with McGovern on several books, said the endorsement was a big campaign lift.
“He’s one of the great figures of progressive politics in modern history,” Lichtman said. “We need fundamental change in Washington. George McGovern knows that and I know that.”
The endorsement, however, will do little to improve Lichtman’s standing in the race, one political analyst said.
“He’ll probably stay as the No. 3 or No. 4 candidate,” said Paul Hernnson, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The Democrats vying for the empty seat are: Lichtman; U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore; ex-NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume; forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren; businessman Josh Rales; and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen.
McGovern said he was impressed with the class of candidates.
“(Cardin’s) an incumbent congressman and I think that gives him an edge,” he said. “I don’t quarrel with any of these candidates that are running, but I know Allan better.”
Cardin’s campaign has raised the most money in the race and his candidacy has the backing of much of the state’s Democratic political establishment.
“We believe these endorsements speak volumes about the confidence Marylanders have in Ben’s ability to stand up for their communities in the U.S. Senate,” said Oren Shur, Cardin’s campaign spokesman.
Lichtman has also received the backing of Ray Mabus, the former Democratic governor of Mississippi, and John Anderson, a 1980 Independent presidential candidate.
– 30 – CNS-3-29-06