A primary source of support
Southern Marylanders serve as candidates’ delegates, cheerleaders
Jim Crawford of Bryantown reached out to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump last year and offered his support, and waited for a reply.
And kept waiting, until Trump’s campaign finally got back to Crawford and discovered just how little time was left to prepare a slate of delegates for Maryland’s primary. But Crawford also had some good news for them.
“I already lined up 15 delegates for you statewide, of the 24 that you need on the ballot,” he recalled saying during his conversation with Trump’s mid-Atlantic director.
Crawford, 68, is among the delegates chosen in April through Trump’s primary election victory in Maryland. They’ll be traveling to Cleveland, Ohio, in late July for the Republican National Convention.
The following week, Amanda Cross of Colton’s Point will be in Philadelphia as a delegate from Maryland supporting Hillary Clinton in the Democratic National Convention.
There’s another Democratic candidate still in that race, and 17-year-old Natalie Lloyd-Schultz of Lusby is out west, trying to help Bernie Sanders win next week’s primary contest in California.
Crawford, the retired proprietor of a warehouse and mailing business, and two organic landscaping businesses, is an executive member of the Charles County Republican Central Committee and coordinator for Trump’s campaign in Maryland’s 5th congressional district. He still restores antique cars, and referees soccer and volleyball games. As he arrived at a coffee shop in Charlotte Hall for an interview about two weeks ago, Crawford was getting phone calls from reporters about federal weapons and child pornography charges against another elected delegate, Caleb Bailey, and Crawford spoke highly of Bailey’s character when Crawford coached him on a sports team. Crawford also pondered the possibility of politics having a role in the indictment, which has led to Bailey’s slot on the delegation being given to an alternate delegate candidate, Dennis Di Bello of St. Leonard.
Crawford has seen a lot of the workings of politics, in his four unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the state legislature, a bid in 2000 to be a delegate for a Republican candidate who ultimately lost the state’s primary, and his current duties with the central committee and his hands-on role with the Trump campaign.
“I’m responsible for managing the volunteers, getting the signs out, [and assigning] the poll watchers,” he said. “We distributed about 2,000 Trump yard signs in the 5th District before the primary.”
Crawford also said he was not surprised that he had to take the initiative to get Trump’s campaign in Maryland going. “It’s not uncommon for a lot of presidential campaigns not to be well organized early on,” he said. “I was persistent. My tenacity, wanting to volunteer [and] to be helpful, paid off.”
He had searched out the first batch of candidates to be Trump delegates on his own, because “I realized that nothing was happening in Maryland.” Trump’s national campaign, like that of the other candidates, eventually made its official designation of its chosen delegate candidates on the ballot.
Crawford will drive directly from a family reunion in Kentucky to Cleveland, while a couple of buses likely will supply most of the state’s delegation with their transportation.
“It’s about a $2,000 out-of-your pocket expense,” he said, to go to the convention, which combines “general networking and fellow-shipping” with serving on a committee and ultimately taking part in the roll call of each states’ delegation.
Whatever issues may arise, he said, “you’re talking with people from other states, trying to coalesce around a national election.”
Born and raised in St. Mary’s 7th District, Cross was elected two years ago to St. Mary’s Democratic Central Committee, and she supported Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) that year, as the congressman lent his support to other local Democratic candidates in the fall election.
“We did a lot of door knocking in the last election,” Cross said, and she got a chance to speak with Hoyer about being a delegate for Clinton in this year’s presidential race. “We talked about it,” she said. “He told me if I was interested, he would put in a good word for me.”
Cross, who works for Technology Services Associates at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, as a business financial manager at an Italian Navy joint program office, said she had been interested in supporting Clinton for a long time.
“The chance of having our first woman president is very exciting to me,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Cross, 33, said she spoke with the congressman after the party’s state organization contacted the county’s central committee. “You have to be pretty involved in the [congressional] district,” she said.
Cross has been involved in politics since she was a student taking part in model Congress and General Assembly programs, and more recently aiding her brother-in-law’s unsuccessful bid to unseat an appointed judge. Cross’ sister, Jodi Stanalonis, is a member of St. Mary’s Republican central committee.
“It makes for interesting dinner conversation,” Cross said.
As a co-chair for St. Mary’s County for Hillary Clinton, Cross helped with organizing poll watchers, early voting efforts and phone-banking activities before this year’s primary election. “We did some sign waving,” she said, “and some social events.”
Through her dual roles with the local Clinton campaign and on the central committee, Cross tried to collect and provide literature from a number of Democratic candidates, including in the U.S. Senate race in Maryland. “We tried to make sure we had all the candidates represented at the polls,” she said. “We try to stay as inclusive as possible, for everyone.”
Cross is going through at the grassroots level what Democrats nationwide face, the upcoming transition from a two-person contest to the likely nomination of Clinton and an effort to bring Bernie Sanders’ supporters on board.
“I don’t want to lose any of those people. We need their help,” Cross said. “We’re all on the same side, regardless of who’s supporting who.”
At the same time that Cross witnesses the interplay between Clinton and Sanders supporters, she observes the interaction of members of the local central committee and the county’s Democratic club, as well as communication between different generations of Democrats.
“They’re teaching each other different things about politics,” she said, including working together on other tasks during the primary season.
“Those relationships that were made in the primary, we’ll continue to nurture and grow into the general election,” she added. “We’ve been able to work together in the club atmosphere, ... to get more Democrats registered and more Democrats in office.”
Three Democratic debate-watching parties helped to develop a rapport between local supporters of Clinton and Sanders, Cross said.
“We were all ... in the same room,” she said. “They realized that they had a lot more in common. You realize that you’re all working toward a common goal.”
Lloyd-Schultz, now in her junior year of home schooling, saw an opportunity last summer to fill a void on the local level, as Sanders’ campaign sought out support nationwide.
“Last July, the campaign was calling for people across the country to get together for a live-stream event,” she said. “We noticed there was nothing in our area. I booked a room at the library, and put the event on their [web] page, posted it online. About 30 people showed up, which was really surprising because it was very early on.”
The teenager started a Facebook page, Southern Maryland for Bernie Sanders. “We really need it to post phone-banking events and canvassing events,” she said, adding that the Facebook page has gotten 280 “likes.”
Sanders’ Maryland campaign website actually lists Meredith Skotnicki, Lloyd-Schultz’s mother, as one of the candidates’ Southern Maryland contacts. The teenager is not yet old enough to vote, but she’s the member of the family who’s carrying out their hands-on participation, for a candidate they both decided, almost simultaneously, represents their position on a variety of issues.
“We were there about the same time,” Skotnicki, a 47-year-old eighth-grade teacher at Southern Middle School, said last week. “It was before he had decided to run.”
On the campaign’s state website, her daughter said, “They were hoping to put an adult there. Mom’s been very supportive.”
Her mother said, “Natalie’s the one who does all the research. She’s the one who does all the work.”
And it was the younger supporter who joined the team working with a Sanders’ campaign representative who arrived in Charles County to set up a field office before the Maryland primary, to launch door-to-door canvassing of prospective voters.
“Most of the time, people weren’t home, or they were not interested,” Lloyd-Schultz said, but at least one person, who planned to sit this election out in protest, was talked into going to the polls. “We talked with her for a while,” the teenager said, “and she wound up going out and vot- ing that day.”
Lloyd-Schultz spent most of her time before Maryland’s primary training other people to do the canvassing work. She’s now in California, doing the same work, or “any volunteering that I can,” in support of Sanders in advance of next week’s primary contest in that state.
Win or lose, the adventure is providing the teenager with her first visit to the West Coast. “I’ve always wanted to go,” she said.
Meredith Skotnicki, left, encourages her daughter Natalie Lloyd-Schultz’s support for Bernie Sanders.
Amanda Cross got strong support in her bid to be a delegate for Hillary Clinton.
Jim Crawford offered support for Donald Trump, and a heads up on Maryland’s primary.