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Using real names is overrated

March 10, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

To my way of thinking, it was a brilliant move and I'm surprised more candidates for political office haven't thought of it before; instead of putting your actual name on the ballot, use your Internet screen name.

That's what Hagerstown mayoral candidate Charlie Baker did, although his name is not Charlie Baker, it's Roger Dean Weber.

"...(W)hen I first went on AOL, it seemed everyone was using an anonymous name, and I just chose Charlie Baker," he told The Herald-Mail. "I've been using that (name) since in one context or another ... I use it all the time for everything."

Good move. If you're mayor, the last thing you want is for the public to know your real name. Kind of an invasion of privacy.

And Internet screen names are just so much sauce. I'd love to go into the voting booth and have to choose between O4cool and RadioMars.

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As we move from a nation of community to a nation of connectivity, real names might become irrelevant altogether. I can see calling your urologist's office for an appointment and the receptionist says "Well, it looks like ppDoc is booked until Thursday, but wiZZkid might be able to squeeze you in this afternoon."

In fact, my main gripe is that Charlie Baker didn't pick something a little more creative, like Charlie Daniels or Tammy Faye Baker.

Now in Baker/Weber's case, one might "jump to the conclusion" that he swapped names because of several brushes with the law, which included some time in the calaboose. He acknowledged being nabbed for running grass from Mexico into the states, something I doubt would hurt his electoral chances too much.

But a newspaper investigation discovered that, according to records in Michigan, a Roger Dean Weber with the same birth date did time for assault with a deadly weapon, and was also convicted of a prison escape in 1981.

Baker-Weber indicated he may or may not be that same person. He's not sure. "It's too long ago for me to remember definitively anything that would be relevant to our conversation," he told the newspaper.

Definitively. Got it. If it's a gray area, why take the chance? Jail time. Escape. You know, it almost rings a bell, but I wouldn't swear to it to the point where I'd feel comfortable putting it on my rsum. No sense taking credit for something you might not have accomplished.

Bill Clinton is probably slapping himself on the forehead right now, wondering why he didn't think of the Lost Car Keys Defense.

"Intern, intern. You know, I might have had one around here at some point, but my memory just isn't what it used to be."

But if you remember a marijuana deal, why would "assault" or "jail break" escape, so to speak, skip your mind? At the very least, you would think you might remember that you didn't escape from jail. I've done a lot of things and forgotten a lot of things, but I can hereby state for the record that I've never once escaped from jail. Not in this country, anyway.

But more fundamentally, what is it about people with rap sheets who want to come in and run Hagerstown? When they're released, do they get a brochure along with their 50 clams and a bus ticket? "Hagerstown: You're Probably Good Enough For Us."

If I see Martha Stewart sitting around Bubba's Deli next week, I'm definitely going to think something's up.

But if nothing else, I thought the Baker-Weber flap would at least increase voter awareness for Tuesday's primary election. Prior to this, the most exciting thing about it was listening to the candidates define "business friendly."

Well, no. Turns out, nobody turned out. I didn't think Weber-Baker would win - but I was willing to spot him 50 votes because alphabetically he would in theory be at the top of the ballot, and, this being Washington County, I figured a number of people would have thought they were voting for Howard Baker or Ferris Baker Watts.

But my real question was, would the jail-breaker weed-smuggler name-swapper memory-loser constituencies take votes away from Bob Bruchey or Dick Trump?

Didn't matter. He only got 12 votes, so I guess it's back to the drawing board. Maybe next time he can use the name of his dog.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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