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Among Maryland Delegation, Some Chairs Speak, Some Don't

A rundown of what's happening at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

By DAVID GUTMAN and JULIE BAUGHMAN
Capital News Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gov. Martin O'Malley spoke at a Maryland delegation breakfast Tuesday morning, where he encouraged delegates to out-cheer everyone else during his speech Tuesday evening, because his message was going to tweak their neighbors.

O'Malley said he would mention Maryland as the state with the No. 1 public school system in the country and that, even though the Virginia delegates would be irritated by that claim, Maryland delegation should cheer loud and proud for this statistic.

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It was hard to call it a convention "speech."

Rep. Steny Hoyer, in his role as parliamentarian, took the stage Tuesday night to tell the delegates of Democratic National Convention that proxy voting was prohibited. This is Hoyer's sixth convention as parliamentarian and he had the spiel down pat. If any delegates are absent, Hoyer told the crowd, an alternate must be appointed.

It was surely one of the driest speeches of Hoyer's 31-year congressional career.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley made an equally brief appearance on stage early Tuesday evening. Five hours before his primetime speech Tuesday night, O'Malley appeared with California Attorney General Kamala Harris. They are co-chairmen of the convention's Rules Committee.

O'Malley appeared both confused and bemused and left the podium briefly to return to the edge of the stage and retrieve some papers.  

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The marquee luncheon for the Maryland delegation at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte was held on the top floor of the Mint Museum in Uptown Charlotte. The luncheon was preceded by hors d'ouevres served on a large patio overlooking convention activity below.

The menu was swank and Southern.

Hors d'ouevres included skewered watermelon and chevre with fig reduction, roasted chicken with sorghum molasses, Carolina (not Maryland) blue crab with peaches and basil, and grilled bison with sweet potato chips and blue cheese.

For lunch the delegates dined on fried green tomatoes with a corn salad and chili aioli. There were also buttermilk biscuits with country ham.

That was followed by shrimp and grits with collard greens, cheddar cheese, bacon, and tasso ham gravy.

Dessert was Krispy Kreme bread pudding with vanilla ice cream.

State party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis said that the bread pudding was what sealed the deal when she was considering caterers.

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Sen. Ben Cardin stopped by the Capital News Service workspace in the basement of the Charlotte Convention Center Tuesday to talk about his re-election, rising college tuition costs, and what he sees as the two parties' fundamentally different visions for America.

Cardin -- who is heavily favored in his race against Republican Daniel Bongino, a former Secret Service agent -- said his campaign is going well and he's pleased with the message they've brought to voters.

"I don't really analyze it," Cardin said of his race. "I just campaign. I'm proud of my record and I'm ready to take that to the voters of Maryland."

Cardin credited Gov. Martin O'Malley with keeping tuition increases in Maryland lower than in many other states but conceded that a college education can be prohibitively expensive. Tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park rose for the third consecutive year this year.

"The amount of debt that the typical student that borrows will incur is not only influencing their decision to stay in school or to go to a certain school, but also what type of career they can take when they leave, and that's not in our national interest," Cardin said.

Cardin attacked Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's budget for cutting, among other things, Pell Grants and safety net programs.

"They say poor people are doing fine and they want to eliminate programs that help opportunities for low income people and they're doing it not to reduce the deficit, they're doing it to give additional tax cuts to the wealthy," Cardin said. "That's two different visions of America and that's why I'm proud to be a Democrat."

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Contrary to his brief, dry convention speech, Rep. Steny Hoyer earlier in the day Tuesday, took a page out of Clint Eastwood's Republican convention playbook at a Maryland delegation luncheon when he spontaneously grabbed an empty chair and used it to address his criticisms of the Romney/Ryan campaign.

"This election is not about empty chairs," Hoyer shouted to a cheering crowd of delegates.

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