Overflow Crowd at Final Lollar-Hoyer-Shickle Forum at SMCM

By David Noss

Video of the complete Lollar-Hoyer-Shickle forum at SMCM Friday, Oct. 29. (Courtesy SMCM)
Spectators who were unable to get a seat inside, try to get a view of the Lollar-Hoyer-Shickle forum from the front porch of Auberbach Hall on the campus of SMCM. (Photo: David Noss)
Spectators who were unable to get a seat inside, try to get a view of the Lollar-Hoyer-Shickle forum from the front porch of Auberbach Hall on the campus of SMCM. (Photo: David Noss)

A curious young man stands on the wall of St. Mary's Hall on the campus of SMCM Friday night trying to get a view of the debate between Lollar, Shickle, and Hoyer inside—a luxury afforded to few of the 100 or so people who could not get a seat inside. (Photo: David Noss)
ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (October 29, 2010)—The fourth and final forum for the 5th District Congressional seat drew an overflow crowd here tonight. Approximately 250 people filled Auberbach Hall on the college campus, leaving another 100 or so people to stand outside in the cool, breezy weather. Many people were seen leaving the event after being told there was no room to sit inside. Overflow parking was set up in a field 5 minutes away by foot.

Some of the people unable to gain entrance were able to peer through one of the two large front windows. Others were seen standing on chairs peering into the highly placed windows on the right side of the building. A second large window at the front of the building was closed by capitol police from Hoyer's security detail for security reasons, according to Professor Todd Eberly, one of the event organizers. A loud speaker was placed by the front steps so all could hear and folding chairs were placed on the lawn. Few elected to use them, preferring to stand.

A uniformed guard, employed by the college, stood outside the door, facing the crowd, refusing access to enter. "The reason that the uniformed guard would not let anyone inside the hall after it was full is because to do so would violate the county fire code - and therefore be illegal," said Eberly.

The turnout tonight was in stark contrast to the forum that was held before the primary. In that instance the hall hosted 175 people, according to Eberly. The facility can seat 210 people, he added.

Three Democrats, including Hoyer, Sylvanus Bent, and Andrew Gall, and four Republicans, Collins Bailey, Chris Chaffee, Lollar, and Chris Robins were invited to the primary forum. Hoyer, Chaffee, and Robins did not participate.

Eberly indicated that the organizers anticipated an overflow crowd for tonight's event. "Our press release made clear that seating was limited and that outdoor overflow would be available," he said. "We had planned on the chairs all along and assumed that people would arrive prepared to be outside - that's why our release made mention of outdoor overflow."

Inside, the three contenders—incumbent Steny Hoyer, Charles Lollar, and Gavin Shickle—took turns answering a series of questions which were reportedly posed by members of the audience.

Hoyer was polished as one would expect from a twenty year career politician. However, he relied heavily upon his de facto mantra where he claims he championed the survival and prosperity of southern Maryland's Navy bases throughout the BRAC process. He also employed a new subtle tactic, several times making mention of Lollar having previously lived in the state of Georgia—implying that Lollar was less of a true blue Marylander than himself.

Lollar rarely missed a beat when responding to Hoyer in a manner that demonstrated his knowledge of the issues and Hoyer's political record.

Shickle, a young political newbie representing the Libertarian party, did not come off as polished as his opponents. But, at times his responses were confident and on point. He took both Republicans and Democrats to task.

Not long into the forum, it soon became obvious that the majority of the crowd outside were Lollar supporters. Many of Lollar's remarks were met with thunderous applause and commentary. The audience seated inside was less boisterous. After the forum ended and the auditorium emptied, it appeared that the Hoyer/Lollar supporters were evenly split, based on the political paraphernalia they were sporting.

Perhaps the most notable moment of the night came during closing remarks when Shickle recounted the story of how an increase in the minimum wage laws forced his family's restaurant to close, leaving him homeless and living in his car. The previously rowdy audience fell silent—with the exception of a lone man in my close proximity who commented, "He's a bit of a crybaby."

Hoyer supporters appeared to exit the campus promptly, whereas many Lollar supporters waited outside for Lollar to come out and hopefully address them directly.

A family from Hollywood, Md. sings a good-spirited anti-Hoyer song after the forum in St. Mary's City. They were supporters of Charles Lollar.

The lighter moment of the night came when a Hollywood family, with several small children, was heard singing a good-spirited anti-Hoyer song outside the hall as they waited for Lollar to exit. A recording of their performance is posted immediately above. In the interest of fairness, I tried to find people singing an anti-Lollar, or anti-Shickle song, to no avail.

An audio recording of tonight's debate, recorded from outside the hall so you can hear the crowd's reactions,and less the first question is included directly below so you can listen and make up your own mind about for whom you should vote.  A video of the complete forum, courtesy of SMCM, is also included at the top of this page.

Audio of the Lollar-Hoyer-Shickle forum tonight at the St. Mary's College of Maryland. Starts with second question posed to the candidates. [ Right-click Save-Link-as to download the MP3 ]

Updated 30-OCT-2010 10:00 p.m. to add Eberly comments and YouTube video.

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