November 8, 2011

State Dept. nominee says she'll prioritize Gross case

President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead U.S. foreign policy in Latin America told lawmakers Tuesday that she would prioritize the release of a Maryland man serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for crimes against the state.

Alan Gross, who was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested in December 2009, has maintained his innocence. The Baltimore native, a veteran international development worker, was helping Cuba’s small Jewish community develop an intranet and improve access to the Internet.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised Gross’s case during the confirmation hearing Tuesday for Roberta Jacobson to serve as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“For nearly two years, the Cuban government has held Alan Gross under horrible terms and conditions, violating his human rights and twisting the rule of law to suit their own needs,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Mr. Gross should be immediately and unconditionally released so he can return home. The health and humanitarian needs of he and his family are paramount.”

Cardin asked Jacobson to prioritize Gross’s release. She agreed.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:54 PM | | Comments (2)

September 27, 2011

Longtime Baltimore budget czar to retire

Baltimore's top financial officer and longtime budget writer said Monday he will retire from city government, the first Cabinet-level departure since Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake won the Democratic primary this month.

Though not a household name, Edward J. Gallagher has been a behind-the-scenes force in shaping every Baltimore spending plan since he was hired in 1983. The city's finance director since 2005, he plans to remain in the job until the mayor's office completes a national search for a replacement.

Continue reading "Longtime Baltimore budget czar to retire" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: People

May 30, 2011

Palin turns up in Baltimore

A day after embarking on a bus tour that one associate suggested was a way to see if her family is up to the rigors of a presidential campaign, Sarah Palin made a surprise visit Monday to Fort McHenry -- and rebuked President Barack Obama for a comment about the U.S. military.

Robin Abcarian of sister newspaper The Los Angeles Times describes the scene:

"Palin and her family followed Ranger Jim Bailey, dressed in the sweltering heat as an 1814 Army artillery officer, who gave them a tour of the battlefield in Baltimore and let Palin pick up a 36-pound cannonball.

"On their way out, Sarah and Todd Palin peered through glass at the original 1814 score for Francis Scott Key's 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'

"She stoked the mystery of whether she will run for president at each stop, saying several times that she is still "contemplating" a run. One associate, who was not authorized to speak for Palin, said he thinks that the trip is a way for the Palins to see whether they are up for the rigors of the campaign trail. (Her youngest child, Trig, 3, was not seen, nor did Tripp, the 2 ½-year-old son of her eldest daughter, Bristol, appear to be on the bus.)

"Later at the fort, asked about the GOP field, she mentioned Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying she thought he would make 'a fine candidate' and that 'we have a lot in common.'

"'Competition breeds success,' she said. 'I would hope there is gonna be vigorous debate and a lot of aggressive competition even in our primary so that our voters have a good choice.'

Continue reading "Palin turns up in Baltimore" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 10:39 PM | | Comments (3)

May 23, 2011

Pelosi, Huffington coming for mayors' meeting

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Martin O’Malley, new media magnate Arianna Huffington and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue will be coming to Baltimore next month for the annual meeting of the the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Washington-based organization announced Monday.

Hundreds of mayors are expected to attend the meeting from June 17 to 20 at the Hilton Baltimore, which is to focus on jobs and the economy, homeland security, transportation, energy and immigration. The mayors use the annual meeting to debate and vote on policy positions to forward to Congress and the White House.

On the last day of the meeting, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to be inaugurated president of the conference for 2011-12. He takes over from Eilzabeth Kautz, mayor of Burnsville, Minn.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors represents the 1,210 U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:16 AM | | Comments (12)

May 3, 2011

How Maryland's 9/11 victims list grew by 20

Maryland is moving ahead with plans to honor its residents who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a memorial featuring beams from the toppled North Tower of New York City's World Trade Center.

Memorial organizers say the piece, to be displayed in front of Baltimore's World Trade Center in time for the 10th anniversary, will be all the more poignant because U.S. special forces have killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The names of victims who considered Maryland home are to be inscribed in the marble base. Organizers have identified 63 such people. But careful readers of The Baltimore Sun will remember a different number -- 43 -- mentioned by Gov. Martin O'Malley when the mangled beams arrived in November.

Memorial committee chairman Randall "Rand" Griffin explained how the list of victims grew by 20 in the past few months.

Committee members contacted state and federal agencies that deal directly with 9/11 victims' families and found that there were a number of victims who, while not living in Maryland at the time of the attacks, had strong ties to the Free State.

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. of The Baltimore Sun

Continue reading "How Maryland's 9/11 victims list grew by 20" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: People

April 28, 2011

Baltimore Co. GOP chairman pushes for diversity

The Baltimore Sun's Raven L. Hill reports:

Tony Campbell, chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, knows that he's an unlikely candidate to be pushing for more minority representation on the seven-member panel. Politically, that could result in the Democrat-heavy council adding another member to its ranks. But to Campbell, who is African American, the issue transcends partisanship.

During tonight's redistricting hearing, he said the growing minority population isn't adequately represented with only one African American among the seven council members.

And Campbell asked the redistricting commission to do something about it.

"It isn't going to change until you make it happen," he said.

Continue reading "Baltimore Co. GOP chairman pushes for diversity" »

Posted by at 10:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: In The Counties, People

April 27, 2011

TV reporter joins Senate minority leader's office

Sen. Nancy Jacobs announced this morning that WJZ-TV reporter Suzanne Collins has joined her office as chief of staff.

Jacobs, who has represented Cecil and Harford counties since 1999, became the leader of the 12-member Senate minority caucus this year.

Collins is no doubt a familiar face, having spent three decades reporting in Maryland. She began her career at WBAL-TV before moving to the CBS station where she has worked for 27 years. Check out Z on TV for more details.

Much of Collins' reporting has focused on Maryland politics, and she covered the terms of four governors, Jacobs said in a release today. This appears to be Collins' first job in politics.

Continue reading "TV reporter joins Senate minority leader's office" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: People

March 8, 2011

Mikulski named to National Women's Hall of Fame

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is joining fellow Baltimorean Billie Holiday, Coretta Scott King, and eight others in the 2011 class of inductees to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The Maryland Democrat, the longest-serving woman in the history of the Senate, said she was honored.

“My fellow inductees inspire women around the world with their strength, courage and commitment to service,” Mikulski said in a statement. “I’m proud to be named among them. It seems especially fitting that the Hall of Fame is located in Seneca Falls, NY, where America’s women’s rights movement got started. Today, on International Women’s Day, we should take time to honor all those women who fought to make a difference in the lives of others.”

The class also includes former Health Secretary Donna Shalala, equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter and St. Katharine Drexel. The members are to be inducted on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in Seneca Falls, site of the 1848 convention credited with launching the women's rights movement in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid congratulated Mikulski.

“Throughout her career, she has been a dedicated representative for the people of Maryland, and has fought tirelessly for equal healthcare for women, improved care for our veterans and better access to education for all Americans,” the Nevada Democrat said in a statement. “Barbara and the other distinguished honorees have paved the way for the girls of today to become the productive, creative, trailblazing women of tomorrow.”

The National Women’s Hall of Fame has inducted 236 women since its founding in 1969. Previous inductees include Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Dorothy Height, Maya Lin, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Rosa Parks.

Notes on the 11 members of the Class of 2011, from the National Women's Hall of Fame, after the jump.

Continue reading "Mikulski named to National Women's Hall of Fame" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 7:55 PM | | Comments (1)

February 3, 2011

Sources: O'Malley to nominate brother for state chair

Annie Linskey reports:

Gov. Martin O’Malley will nominate his younger brother and long-time political advisor Peter O’Malley to lead Maryland’s Democratic Party, according to several top Democrats.

The governor will forward his pick for chairman at a meeting set for March, the sources said, and state Democratic officials will have to vote to approve the nomination. In Maryland, the governor’s nomination has typically been selected as the leader of his party.

A top Democrat said the governor expects Peter O’Malley to build the party as it “prepares for the successful re-elections” of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and President Barack Obama in 2012. The source not authorized to speak about the nomination.

Gov. O’Malley would not comment on the nomination last night.

“We’re working on the State of the State,” he said, referring to the address he is set to deliver to the Maryland General Assembly Thursday. Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman, also would not confirm the move. Peter O’Malley could not be immediately reached.

Continue reading "Sources: O'Malley to nominate brother for state chair" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:00 AM | | Comments (4)

January 26, 2011

Imposter tweets for Hoyer during SOTU

Michael Kinsley defined a gaffe in Washington as a moment in which someone accidentally tells the truth.

Still, the messages on Rep. Steny Hoyer's Twitter account during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night suggested a shocking new level of candor, particularly from the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives.

“This AZ thing is working out for us very well,” read one Tweet attributed to the Southern Maryland Democrat and captured by blogger Steve Lunceford. “Look how Republicans fell for this bi-partisan seating crap.”

“He is going to veto bills with Earmarks?” Hoyer appeared to ask in another. “Load of Bull! He promised this a year or two ago. Whatever. At least the fool McCain is happy.”

In fact, Hoyer's old Twitter account – to which his official home page was still linked Tuesday night – was taken over by an imposter.

Continue reading "Imposter tweets for Hoyer during SOTU" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:00 AM | | Comments (1)

January 25, 2011

Roscoe Bartlett's date for SOTU: Nancy Pelosi

We posted earlier about Republicans and Democrats sitting together at President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Now we learn that Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Western Maryland, a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee and the new Tea Party Caucus, will be sitting with Democratic former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House Republicans' No. 1 target in their successful midterm elections.

“I look forward to sitting between two lovely ladies, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Judy Chu," Bartlett said in a statement. "I also look forward with great hope that Congress and all Americans will listen to President Obama give another speech in the spirit of his address in Tucson.”

The Baltimore-born Pelosi, for her part, apparently turned down the invitation of House Republican Leader Eric Cantor to ask Bartlett.

"I thank @GOPLeader for his #SOTU offer, but I invited my friend Rep. Bartlett from MD yesterday & am pleased he accepted," she Tweeted.

Continue reading "Roscoe Bartlett's date for SOTU: Nancy Pelosi" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:11 PM | | Comments (1)

Ruppersberger named top Democrat on Intel

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has named Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger the top Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Ruppersberger’s appointment Tuesday as ranking member – leader of the minority party – puts the Baltimore County Democrat in position to chair the committee should Democrats regain control of the House.

“I want to ensure that our men and women in the intelligence community have the resources to keep our country safe, even in an era of tight budgets,” Ruppersberger, a longtime member of the committee, said in a statement. “I also want to ensure proper Congressional oversight for our intelligence agencies, and I look forward to using my expertise as Chairman of the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee [in the previous Congress] to maintain the strength of our intelligence capability.”

Pelosi, herself a former member of the intelligence committee, said Ruppersberger “brings years of experience to his new role – and he will be a strong voice for our safety in the 112th Congress.”

Continue reading "Ruppersberger named top Democrat on Intel" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:44 AM | | Comments (1)

January 18, 2011

Baltimore Co. Council appointments

The Baltimore County Council unanimously approved two interim high-level appointments at Monday's meeting, reports The Sun's Raven Hill.

George Klunk was appointed acting director of the Office of Economic Development. Michael J. Mayhew was named acting director of the Office of Planning.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the appointments last month as part of his leadership team.

Klunk is now filing the post vacated by David Iannucci, whom Kamenetz did not keep on staff from former executive James T Smith Jr.'s administration.

Posted by at 10:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: In The Counties, People

Court rejects Md. challenge to D.C. marriage law

The Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a Maryland pastor and others seeking to overturn the District of Columbia's same-sex marriage law.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, has led the lawsuit against the district's elections board for rejecting a ballot measure defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman on the District of Columbia ballot.

The Supreme Court turned away the appeal on Tuesday without comment. Washington began recognizing sane-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions in 2009, and began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples last year.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:56 PM | | Comments (2)

January 14, 2011

Presidential hopefuls, or not, at Republican retreat

Sun colleague Jean Marbella reports:

Another meal -- this time, lunch -- and another feeding for the media beast at the House Republican retreat being held at the Marriott Waterfront hotel in Inner Harbor East. With reporters not actually allowed inside any of the actual sessions, we await members and guests either holding press conferences, or snag them individually in the lobby.

This post-prandial feeding came at the hands of three GOP governors said to be mulling 2012 presidential bids -- Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Rick Perry of Texas and Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Introduced by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, each took the podium in a ballroom here to denounce what they called federal overstepping on states' responsibilities, particularly the new health care mandates and environmental regulations.

"This administration wants to come in and control your state," Perry said.

"This election," Barbour said of the November midterms that tipped the House majority from Democrat to Republican, "undoubtedly was a repudiation of President Obama's policies."

"It's unsustainable," McDonnell said of what he called the unfunded mandates related to the health care reform act.

None, however, admitted to harboring a direct challenge to Obama's presidency in 2012.

Continue reading "Presidential hopefuls, or not, at Republican retreat" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:10 PM | | Comments (0)

Baltimore mayor betting crab cakes on Ravens win

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is betting the mayor of Pittsburgh crab cakes and more that the Ravens will beat the Steelers in their divisional playoff on Saturday.

If Baltimore wins, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke RAVENstahl will send Rawlings-Blake a plate of sandwiches from Primanti Bros. Restaurant, Smiley cookies from Eat ’n Park and other Steeltown treats.

He’ll also have to post a video of himself in a Baltimore jersey declaring the Ravens’ superiority to the Steelers.

If Pittsburgh wins, Rawlings-Blake will owe Ravenstahl a tray of crab cakes from frin Faidley’s Seafood in Lexington Market. And she’ll be responsible for a video announcement of her own, in black and gold, proclaiming the Steelers’ superiority.

But she doesn’t believe it will come to that.

“Coach Harbaugh and the entire Ravens team are playing their best football right now, and I look forward to watching them win on Saturday,” Rawlings-Blake said in a release. “I am also excited to see how handsome my colleague, Mayor Ravenstahl, looks in purple and black!”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:56 PM | | Comments (3)

Bartlett, Harris, hear Gingrich, Gramm

Sun colleague Jean Marbella reports:

The House Republicans' retreat in Baltimore got under way this morning with a breakfast discussion about the federal budget -- but with a side order of electoral politics on the table as well.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and perhaps future candidate for president, spoke at the breakfast attended by some of the more than 200 members of the new House majority gathered here for their annual winter retreat. He said his presidential ambitions did not come up, officially.

"Not directly," Gingrich said with a smile. "By the end of February, I'll decide whether to have an exploratory committee."

Caught in the main lobby after the breakfast as he was leaving town, Gingrich said the incoming GOP freshman class had some similarities with and some differences from the 1994 wave that he led, armed with their "Contract with America."

"They've arrived with a mission. They're very dedicated," he said. "They may be even more serious about studying and learning. They have a model of what works and what doesn't work."

One of those newly elected Republicans, Rep. Andy Harris, attended the breakfast, at which former Sen. Phil Gramm also spoke. He said he had been particularly interested in hearing the two speakers because of how they handled their own budget crisis during their terms.

"It was great hearing from the two people who were in charge the last time we brought the federal budget under control," Harris said.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland's other House Republican, called Gingrich and Gramm "two of my favorite people." The ten-term congressman from Western Maryland said much of the discussion focused on the coming vote to raise the government's debt ceiling -- something he has never supported.

"I do not think the sky would fall if we lived within our means," he said.

Continue reading "Bartlett, Harris, hear Gingrich, Gramm" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:50 AM | | Comments (7)

January 4, 2011

Report: Sharfstein to head Health and Mental Hygiene

The number two official at the Food and Drug Administration will join the O'Malley administration.

Josh Sharfstein, the agency's Principal Deputy Commissioner would lead the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to a source familiar with the transition. That bureaucracy is now headed by Secretary John M. Colmers. The news was first reported by CQ's John Reichard.

A spokesman for Colmers referred calls to the governor's office, as did Sharfstein. O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said O'Malley is planning a press conference concerning DHMH in Annapolis Wednesday morning.

The state's health secretary oversees a $9 billion budget which includes the sprawling Medicaid program. The new secretary will have a significant role in implementing the Obama health care overhaul, an issue that O'Malley is prioritizing.

The change would bring Sharfstein much closer to home: The 41-year-old is a resident of Baltimore's Mount Washington neighborhood. Plus he's  familiar with Maryland politics -- before President Barack Obama tapped him for the FDA, Sharfstein was Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's health commissioner.

Most recently Sharfstein was the FDA's front man in its efforts to ban alcohol infused energy drinks like Four Loko. His name is frequently mentioned in the national press, where he's been closely associated with with the federal agency's new tougher stance on enforcement including recalls of pediatric medications and pistachios.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:20 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Administration, People, Washington

December 17, 2010

Investigators raid home of Ehrlich robocaller

Investigators for the state prosecutor on Friday raided the home and office of Julius Henson, the political operative who ordered the controversial Election Day robocalls for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Emmet C. Davitt, Maryland’s new state prosecutor, declined to comment on the raid. Neither Henson nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Friday.

WBAL-TV, which broke the news of the morning raid, aired footage showing investigators carrying boxes away from Henson's home from an early morning raid.

Henson, a Democratic operative who was working this year for the Republican Ehrlich, ordered more than 112,000 robocalls before the polls closed on Election Day last month.

The calls focused on Democratic precincts in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message featured a female voice suggesting that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won the election and encouraging supporters to stay home.

The woman told voters to “relax” because “Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful.… Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight.”

Nobody answered the door Friday at Henson’s home on Decker Street. There was also nobody answering Friday afternoon at his office on North Charles Street.

Henson has acknowledged orchestrating the calls. He told The Baltimore Sun last month that the message was meant to encourage turnout.

“We believe the call was made for voters in Baltimore City who were not going to go to the polls, to go to the polls and vote,” Henson said in early November. “It never said, ‘Don't vote.’ ”

Henson said Ehrlich “probably” did not know about the calls. Ehrlich’s campaign paid Henson $111,000 for “community outreach.”

Ehrlich told the Annapolis Capital last week that the calls were “done outside of my purview.” When news of the calls broke on Election Night, an Ehrlich spokesman called them “absolutely irresponsible.”

Continue reading "Investigators raid home of Ehrlich robocaller" »

December 16, 2010

Cummings named top Democrat on Oversight

Rep. Elijah Cummings has been elected the top Democrat on the House’s principle investigative panel.

The Baltimore Democrat can now look forward to two years of combat with incoming chairman Darrell Issa, the California Republican who has pledged wide-ranging investigations of the Obama administration when the GOP takes control of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in January.

In seeking to become ranking member, or leader of the committee minority, Cummings had said he would not allow the oversight committee “to tie the hands of our President and federal workforce, preventing them from fulfilling their duties to protect and serve the American people.”

The position will put Cummings first in line to become chairman of the committee should the Democrats regain control of the House. Earlier, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Montgomery County Democrat, was named ranking member of the House budget committee.

After his election by the Democratic House Caucus on Thursday, Cummings spoke of the oversight committee’s importance in the coming Congress, “as we continue to seek the causes and solutions of our economic downturn, as we attempt to stem the tide of fraudulent foreclosures in America, and as we ensure our citizens’ money is spent effectively and efficiently by the Federal Government."

Continue reading "Cummings named top Democrat on Oversight" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:23 PM | | Comments (7)

Update: Birther colonel gets six months

Sun colleague Andrea Siegel reports:

An Army doctor convicted of disobeying orders to deploy to Afghanistan because he questioned whether Barack Obama was eligible to be president was sentenced today to six months in a military prison.

He also will be dismissed from the military, meaning he will forfeit a nearly $90,000 annual salary and a pension.

In closing arguments at the court-martial at Ft. George G. Meade, government prosecutors said Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin had created "a spectacle that has embarrassed the Army" with his website and YouTube video. In both, Lakin said he wouldn't deploy until his questions about whether the president is a natural born U.S. citizen were answered.

Capt. Philip J. O'Beirne asked the eight-member panel to sentence Lakin to between 24 and 36 months in a military jail and dismiss him from the army after almost 18 years of service. The maximum sentence was reduced from 3 1/2 years to 3 years this morning.

Lakin's civilian lawyer argued against jail time.

"Does the Army or society need protection against Dr. Lakin?" attorney Neal Puckett asked the panel.

He suggested that the panel "make [Lakin] work his debt off" and reprimand Lakin.

He described his client as obsessed and remorseful, and said he had followed bad advice from an outside lawyer on pushing his issue within the army.

Continue reading "Update: Birther colonel gets six months" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:10 PM | | Comments (17)

December 15, 2010

Retiring senator donates 52 acres for conservation

Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports:

Outgoing Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus and his wife, Sharon, set aside 52 acres of their land in Somerset County for conservation, a donation that abuts a larger parcel the couple agreed not to develop several years ago.

The property, which is on Back Shelltown Road south of Snow Hill, is valued at about $314,000, according to a preliminary estimate from the Department of Natural Resources. Stoltzfus said he’d initially planned to build homes on the property, but decided against it.

“It is like a little garden of Eden,” he said. The land is wooded and full of turkeys, deer and other wildlife, Stoltzfus said.

The Maryland Environmental Trust will oversee the property, though it will remain in Stoltzfus’ name. Under the terms of the conservation easement, any future landowner will have to respect the arrangement and will not be allowed to develop the property. Stoltzfus will receive a tax credit for the donation.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:15 PM | | Comments (3)

Cummings seeks top Democrat spot on Oversight

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings is asking colleagues to support his bid to become the top-ranking Democrat on the House’s investigatory panel.

The position would pit the Baltimore Democrat against incoming chairman Darrell Issa, the California Republican who has pledged wide-ranging investigations of the Obama administration when the GOP takes control of the House Committee on Overight and Government Reform in January. Current Chairman Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat, is not seeking the ranking member position after control of the committee changes parties.

“Issa … has announced his intention to seek as many as 280 hearings in 2011 alone, in pursuit of obstructing some of the most significant legislative achievements from the 111th Congress and undermining the current Administration,” Cummings said in a statement. “The Democratic Caucus must not cede to the new House Majority that wishes to move our nation backward, and must take every opportunity to defend against partisan attacks and the dismantling of policies that ensure security for hardworking Americans.”

Cummings’ main opponent for ranking member is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the New York Democrat who is currently the second-ranking member. Towns is backing Maloney, according to Politico; Rep. Dennis Kucinich, also a member of the committee, has thrown his support behind Cummings.

Continue reading "Cummings seeks top Democrat spot on Oversight" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:44 PM | | Comments (0)

December 10, 2010

Dixon: 'I disappointed the city, my family and myself'

Ten months after her conviction for embezzlement, her Alford plea on perjury charges and her resignation as mayor of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon told The Daily Record this week that she “disappointed the city, my family and myself,” but that she still follows city politics and hasn’t ruled out a future run for office.

“Of course, I would do a poll to find out” how such a return to the fray would be received, Dixon told Daily Record reporter Melody Simmons in an interview published Friday.

Of her successor, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Dixon told Simmons: “I don’t see a clear vision.” Dixon said the city has lost some of the momentum that she said started during her own administration on eliminating homelessness, reducing violent crime and making the city more green.

“We were making great strides,” Dixon said. “I feel like the city has gotten back to being more reactive than proactive. And I know there have been crises that have happened that you can’t control, but there’s no real plan of action. And I hear from different groups that they don’t have access to the administration the way that they did.”

Read the interview at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:01 PM | | Comments (49)

December 3, 2010

Wargotz does not want to lead state GOP

Eric Wargotz has decided that he does not want to lead the state's Republican party, explaining to supporters yesterday that the position would prevent him from running for another elected office.

The news narrows the field of GOP candidates who've talked about succeeding current chairwoman Audrey Scott. She is not seeking another term.

Our friends at The Washington Post are also reporting that Andrew Langer has dropped out.

The state's Republicans plan to meant on Sat. Dec. 11 to make their decision, a selection that will play a significant role shaping the state's Republican party in the post-Ehrlich era.

Other candidates include Mary Kane, who was on the ticket this year with Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.

Other choices include William Campbell, the former Amtrak and U.S Coast Guard financial executive who lost a bid this fall for Maryland comptroller and Mike Esteve, chairman of the Maryland College Republicans.

Wargotz wouldn't tell us what he's considering next. But he said his next campaign will benefit from lessons he's learned from from his failed attempt to take on popular Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski this year. (He declined to talk specifics.)

In his email to supporters, he said that he hopes going forward party will hue to its "conservative values."
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: People

December 1, 2010

O'Malley to lead Democratic governors

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue spilled the news: as expected, Martin O'Malley will was picked today to be the next chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

(While the organization already has announced O'Malley's election in a press release, and Perdue described him in her speech as the chairman, the actual vote is happening right now.)

** UPDATE: O'Malley has now, officially, been selected chair via a unanimous vote, says spokesman Rick Abbruzzese. **

O'Malley is currently emceeing an association lunch at the St. Regis Washington hotel. He spoke briefly, giving a somewhat nationalized version of his stump speech.

As DGA chairman, O'Malley now has the opportunity to expand his Rolodex with Democratic donors from other states, deepen relationships with a network of emerging Democratic leaders and recruit new faces to the party.

The position proved a stepping-stone for former President Bill Clinton, current Health Secretary Kathleen Sibelius and current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, among others.

"It is an important leadership position," Nathan Gonzales, the political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said Tuesday, before the vote. "If it is O'Malley, it will put him on a larger stage than just being the governor of Maryland."

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi showed the way during the 2010 election campaign, when he made the Republican Governors Association a major fundraising resource for GOP candidates — and kept his own name in the national media.

But the job does not necessarily translate into national stardom.

Continue reading "O'Malley to lead Democratic governors" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Martin O'Malley, People

November 16, 2010

Murphy-Kane match-up for state GOP chair?

Setting up a possible re-match of the 2010 GOP primary, Brian Murphy's camp began hinting that the conservative upstart wants to be the state's next party chair.

The move has been rumored for days, but gained credence here when Murphy's spokeswoman called to say that the Smith Island Cake investor will appear for three hours Friday afternoon a radio show hosted by former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV. Karla Graham, the spokeswoman, also said calls have been coming in from county GOP chairs across the state encouraging the run. But she stressed that her boss has not made a final decision.

Murphy lost handily to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and in September and got a frosty reception from the former governor at an Annapolis rally after the primary. But as his poll numbers plummeted Ehrlich embraced Murphy, calling him "the future" of the Maryland Republican Party at an event with former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani.

If Murphy goes forward, the competition will be familiar. Ehrlich's most recent running-mate Mary Kane has said she wants to take over the Maryland GOP, a position that her husband John Kane held when Ehrlich was in office. Murphy would undoubtedly position himself in the same posture he did during the election: An outsider with business success hoping to shake up the Republican party.

And, with the Ehrlich-Kane team losing to Gov. Martin O'Malley by double digits in year where the GOP made national gains, the Maryland party faithful might be more interested now then they were two months ago.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: People

November 9, 2010

Welch to retire, council colleagues say

Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper reports:

City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who has represented Southwest Baltimore for more than a quarter century, is planning to retire before the end of the year, her colleagues say.

Welch, 85, has not set a firm date for her retirement, Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said. She is serving her seventh term on the council.

“She said she was really enjoying her work on the council, but there comes a time when you want to leave still at the top of your game,” said Young, who met with her before Monday’s council meeting.

Calls to Welch were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Her son and longtime aide, William “Pete” Welch, said the councilwoman is contemplating retirement, but has made no formal announcement.

City Hall observers consider William Welch the likely successor to his mother’s seat and speculate that her retirement will be timed to allow him to go into next year’s election as the incumbent.

When a council seat is open, the 14 other council members host public interviews for the seat and vote on a successor.

William Welch laughed off questions of whether he would run for his mother’s seat, saying it was “putting the cart before the horse.”

Continue reading "Welch to retire, council colleagues say" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:58 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City Hall, People

October 23, 2010

Ehrlich has increased media spending

Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Bykowicz reports:

Republican former Gov. Robert L Ehrlich Jr. has spent more than $2.6 million on advertising on television and other media in the past month and a half, a campaign finance report released Saturday morning shows.

Ehrlich ad buys are a dramatic increase from the much tinier amount — roughly $100,000 — he spent on advertising between April, when he anounced his election bid, and the beginning of September, the last time finance reports were made public.

By contrast, Gov. Martin O’Malley has invested steadily in media throughout the election season. From the beginning of the year through early September, the Democratic candidate spent about $1 million on advertising and other media outreach. His latest camapign finance report was’t immediately available Saturday.

Reports for all statewide and local candidates were due Friday night to the State Board of Elections. They are expected to be made public over the weekend and will provide the final look at campaign finances before Election Day.

Continue reading "Ehrlich has increased media spending" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:20 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Campaign finance, Candidate Watch 2010, People, Political ads

October 20, 2010

Ehrlich's fashion show fundraiser

A dispatch from Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson:

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican nominee for governor, and his wife Kendel held a “Back in Black Again” campaign fashion show fundraiser Tuesday night at Martin’s West in Baltimore County.

Kendel Ehrlich wore a bright blue satin dress by Jackie Rogers. The former governor simply wore his “own tux.”

“I just knew this would be a great idea to rally women behind Bob,” Kendel Ehrlich said following the show. “It was a huge hit.”

About a dozen models wore gowns, outerwear and other popular items for this fall from the Bettina Collections in Cross Keys and Alpaca International to a room full of mostly female Ehrlich supporters.

Kendel Ehrlich said that her husband never faced any reservations about attending or appearing in the fashion show. “He’s pretty comfortable anywhere,” she said.

But since the Ehrlichs began doing the show, the former governor said there’s “definitely more men,” this year. Outside the ballroom, promotional items in pink letters said “Women for Ehrlich.”

When the couple and their two sons appeared on the catwalk following the show to the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling,” they met a roar of applause.

“Kendel wanted to do this. This is Kendel’s night,” he told the crowd. But while the gala-like event was his wife’s plan, Ehrlich credited her with keeping him motivated to run for governor again.

“And here we are,” said Kendel Ehrlich. “The husband was wrong again,” Ehrlich quickly responded.

Continue reading "Ehrlich's fashion show fundraiser" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 7:03 AM | | Comments (17)

October 6, 2010

After plea, Holton traveling to Fla. on city's dime

The Baltimore Sun's Julie Scharper reports:

Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who pleaded no contest this week to a campaign finance violation, will attend a three-day conference in Palm Beach, Fla., next week at the city’s expense.

The city spending board voted Wednesday to approve the $1,100 trip for Holton, who will be attending the National Association of Counties conference in Palm Beach from October 13 to 15.

Holton pleaded no contest on Monday to a misdemeanor stemming from a deal she struck with developer Ronald Lipscomb and bread magnate and developer John Paterakis Sr.

Holton asked the two to pay $12,500 for a poll during her 2007 re-election campaign, circumventing campaign finance regulations and exceeding the $4,000 cap on donations from individuals during an election cycle.

A related and more serious bribery charge remains tied up in an appeal to the Court of Appeals.
Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who presides over the five-member Board of Estimates, abstained from the vote. His spokesman said Young normally abstains from votes involving the council members.

Spokesman Lester J. Davis said the trip was planned long before the plea deal was announced and that Young, who serves as leader of the council, “did not have a role in picking who went on this trip.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake voted in favor of the expenditure. Asked if Holton’s trip should be approved after her plea, Rawlings-Blake said “I don’t think the two are related.”

Continue reading "After plea, Holton traveling to Fla. on city's dime" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:54 PM | | Comments (27)

October 5, 2010

Bill Clinton to headline fundraiser for O'Malley

Gov. Martin O'Malley is awash with presidential attention this cycle -- invitations just went out inviting donors to an Oct. 21 fundraiser in Baltimore with former President Bill Clinton.

Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Abbruzzese would not confirm the event, say how many people are expected to attend or how much money the event is meant to raise. But, according to the invitation, the fundraiser will be at the Museum of Industry, a waterfront location frequently used for such purposes.

Ehrlich's campaign also announced a political star appearance -- he's holding an event with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who warmed the hearts of fiscal conservatives this year by chopping that state's budget. Christie also, in a speech earlier this year, singled out Maryland as a state that makes poor budgeting decisions.

For O'Malley, the Clinton fundraiser will follow an appearance by President Barack Obama in Prince George's County on Thursday. Vice President Joe Biden has also stumped for O'Malley this cycle.

The Clinton event won't be open to the public. But there's some chatter that Clinton might also do a rally for O'Malley. The timing would make sense -- the former President will be here on the eve of the first early voting day.

Clinton and O'Malley have friendly history. The pair traveled to Ireland together in 2000 and Clinton had warm words for the then-newly minted Baltimore mayor at a New York Democratic leadership event that year.

Clinton also campaigned hard for O'Malley in 2006, cutting a television ad and appearing at a rally in Prince George's County. (See photo on left.)

In what was widely viewed as payback, O'Malley was one of the first governors to support Hillary Clinton's failed presidential bid.

Interestingly the two were not always so cozy. In 1992, as a Baltimore City Councilman, O'Malley managed the Maryland campaign for Sen. Bob Kerrey who vied with Clinton for the party's presidential nomination but then dropped out.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: People

Former Bartenfelder backer endorses Kamenetz

The Baltimore Sun's Raven Hill reports:

Defeated Baltimore County Council candidate Bill Paulshock, who ran on Joe Bartenfelder’s ticket in the primary, plans to back Kevin Kamenetz in the general election.

Though he said he will not make an endorsement in the 5th District race between fellow Democrat Mike Ertel and Republican David Marks, he left little doubt about where his loyalties lie.

“I feel David is the most qualified at this point,” said Paulshock, adding that he’s known Marks for years through his work on various committees and community organizations. “I’ve seen firsthand how he works. He’s very professional. He cares about people. If I had to make a choice, David is the most qualified.”

Paulshock asked his backers to support Kamenetz in a statement that outlines his reasons:

“My decision to endorse Kevin for County Executive was an easy decision for me. Over the past year of campaigning, I have come to realize the type of leader that it takes to run Baltimore County Government. That leader must be experienced; possess the knowledge and capability to oversee the operations of Government; and must surround himself with professional and experienced personnel. Kevin Kamenetz satisfies all of these requirements.”

The Kamenetz endorsement shouldn’t be taken as a knock against Bartenfelder, he said.

Continue reading "Former Bartenfelder backer endorses Kamenetz" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (2)

September 10, 2010

Franchot trying to mend fences with Schaefer

Baltimore Sun colleague Laura Vozzella reports from Arbutus:

Comptroller Peter Franchot was the official guest of honor at the Arbutus Roundtable Friday, but participants joked that the gathering was really a rally for Baltimore County Council hopeful Rebecca Dongarra, who joined the political gabfest at Paul’s Restaurant.

Dongarra, of Catonsville, is one of four people vying for the Democratic nomination in District 1. That race is certainly more of a nail-biter than Franchot’s. He has no opponents in the Democratic primary. An 18-year-old is among those in the race for the GOP nomination.

Quite a change from four years ago, when Franchot endured a knock-down, drag-out, three-way primary that ended the political career of the legendary William Donald Schaefer.

Franchot told the group that he’s started mending fences with Schaefer. Franchot’s 88-year-old mother has written to the former Baltimore mayor, governor and state comptroller. After Schaefer’s former chief of staff, R. Dean Kenderdine, happened to mention that Schaefer loved tongue sandwiches, Franchot arranged to have one delivered from Attman’s.

Continue reading "Franchot trying to mend fences with Schaefer" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)

September 9, 2010

Mikulski: Quran-burning 'disgraceful,' 'un-American'

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is calling plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Muslim holy book on Saturday "disgraceful and un-American."

“The anniversary of the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11 should not be marked with an act of hatred," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. "Book burning is the action of fanatics and fascists. The Quran should be treated with the same respect given to the Bible and the Torah."

Terry Jones, pastor of the nondenominational Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., says the church will proceed with "International Burn-a-Quran Day" despite condemnations by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House.

Gen. David Petraeus warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

Petraeus spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the matter Wednesday, the AP reports.

"They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians," spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus said, and would "create problems for our Afghan partners ... as it likely would be Afghan police and soldiers who would have to deal with any large demonstrations."

Continue reading "Mikulski: Quran-burning 'disgraceful,' 'un-American'" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (28)

September 7, 2010

Currie gets a court date

State Sen. Ulysses Currie, indicted by a federal grand jury last week on corruption charges, is set to make his first court appearance at a hearing Sept. 17, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports. The Prince George’s County Democrat is expected to plead not guilty.

Currie is alleged to have accepted $245,000 in payments from Shoppers Food Warehouse in exchange for his help removing state bureaucratic hurdles. He stepped down from his position as chair of the senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee after the indictment was announced.

Currie’s attorney, Dale Kelberman, describes his arrangement with Shoppers as a consulting position similar to the outside employment many of the state’s legislators hold during the nine months that the General Assembly does not meet. The supermarket chain is headquartered in Currie’s district.

Two former executives from the chain also were indicted last week. Former president William White is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 17. Former vice president for real estate R. Kevin Small has not yet been assigned a court date.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:33 PM | | Comments (1)

September 1, 2010

Currie, supermarket execs indicted

A federal grand jury in Maryland has charged the chairman of the Senate’s powerful budget panel and two former supermarket executives with bribery, extortion and other criminal offenses in an 18-count indictment, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports.

In announcing the charges Wednesday, prosecutors said Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Democrat, misused his influence for personal gain while helping Shoppers Food Warehouse expand in Maryland.

“Government officials cross a bright line when they accept payments in return for using the authority of their office, whether they take cash in envelopes or checks labeled as consulting payments,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

“When businesses can obtain valuable government benefits by putting a senator on the payroll, it diminishes public confidence and disadvantages companies that refuse to go along with the pay-to-play approach.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, a close ally, said in a statement that Currie has agreed to relinquish his post as the chairman of Budget and Taxation Committee, which oversees the state’s $32 billion annual spending plan. Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, the vice-chairman, will lead the committee, Miller said.

Currie’s attorney, Dale Kelberman, put out a statement saying Currie would plead not guilty to the charges.

A 15-year veteran of the Senate, Currie filed for reelection in January and faces no opposition in the primary or general election.

Continue reading "Currie, supermarket execs indicted" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:51 PM | | Comments (0)

August 26, 2010

Currie missing $187K from campaign, fires treasurer

The chairman of Maryland’s powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee reported Thursday that roughly $187,000 has been drained from his campaign account, and his attorney is conducting a “comprehensive investigation” to determine what happened to the money, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports.

Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George’s County Democrat, also reported that he has replaced his longtime campaign treasurer. Currie’s attorney, Gregg Bernstein, wrote in a letter to the Maryland State Board of Elections that “inconsistencies” with the campaign funding report “appear to be the result of the treasurer’s conduct.”

The missing money appears to be unconnected to a federal probe into Currie’s relationship with Shoppers Food Warehouse, a grocery chain in his Prince George’s County district. State prosecutors have also been investigating Currie’s campaign account since an article in The Baltimore Sun raised questions about how the money was being spent.

Currie’s former campaign treasurer, Olivia Harris, did not return phone calls on Thursday. State prosecutors raided her Upper Marlboro home on Friday, according to a source familiar with the investigation. She has prepared Currie’s campaign reports since he was elected to the Senate in 1994. Currie also did not return calls.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the State Board of Elections, said he would work with Currie’s campaign to determine what happened to the money.

“They recognized that a full accounting is required,” he said. “We would have required this, but they are doing it proactively on their own.”

Continue reading "Currie missing $187K from campaign, fires treasurer" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 PM | | Comments (1)

Baltimorean Mehlman, former RNC chair, comes out

Ken Mehlman, the Baltimore native who served as a campaign manager for President George W. Bush in 2004 and chaired the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007, has told family and associates he is gay, the Atlantic reports in an online article.

Marc Armbinder, politics editor at the Atlantic, calls Mehlman “the most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay.”

Mehlman tells Armbinder that he agreed to answer questions about his sexuality he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a fundraiser next month for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ban on same-sex marriage.

"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," Mehlman says. "Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."

As Armbinder writes, Mehlman's ascent in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities:

Continue reading "Baltimorean Mehlman, former RNC chair, comes out" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:59 AM | | Comments (17)

August 9, 2010

On the waterfront, a generational clash

Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey -- a former City Hall reporter who now covers state government -- opens her roundup of Baltimore's legislative races with one of the few competitive contests in the city. She describes it is as a clash of generations:

Dodging raindrops Thursday night, the incumbent senator sped from door to door in a South Baltimore neighborhood.

"I'm George Della," he said at one door. "Keep me in mind on election day." Then he was off to the next.

A few miles south in Westport his young upstart of an opponent, Bill Ferguson, was leading a group of supporters in the same activity.

"We've had the same senator for 27 years," he said. "I don't think he's pushing hard enough."

In a city where most incumbents face little or no opposition at the polls, the contest in Baltimore's 46th district is shaping up to be the most dynamic legislative race. Della and Ferguson each embody a different force tugging at the gentrifying district, an area that encompasses the entire waterfront from Curtis Bay to Dundalk.

Della, 67, is the old-school pol who started his public career as a Baltimore City councilman, winning a Senate seat the year Ferguson was born. When he knocks on a door, Della often knows the current occupants — and sometimes the families that lived there before.

Ferguson, 27, is a Teach for America import from Rockville with bundles of energy who is using social media to spread his message of school reform. He moved to Baltimore five years ago, though his campaign stresses that he's a "fifth-generation Marylander."

Read more about Della, Ferguson and Baltimore's other legislative hopefuls at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)

August 5, 2010

Vozzella: The surgeon on speed dial

After the stabbing death of a young Hopkins researcher in Charles Village, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake agreed to talk to Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper about the time eight years ago when her brother was gravely wounded in a stabbing.

In a city freshly rattled by violent crime, it might have been smart politics for a mayor to let people know she'd been personally affected by it.

Except for this part, Baltimore Sun colleague Laura Vozzella writes: The mayor recalled in the interview that when things looked dire for her brother, Wendell Rawlings, her powerful politician-dad pulled strings to get him moved from Sinai Hospital to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

"Delegate [Pete] Rawlings called Thomas Scalea, physician-in-chief at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, who rode an ambulance to Sinai to pick up Wendell Rawlings," The Sun's Julie Scharper wrote.

I can't blame the late delegate for pulling any string he could to save his son. What parent wouldn't?

But was it smart for the mayor to offer up that tidbit — that her dad had one of the world's greatest trauma surgeons on speed dial, and that the doc was willing to hop into an ambulance on his behalf — in the context of an interview meant to show that she'd been touched by violent crime, just like so many ordinary Baltimoreans? Kinda undercuts the everywoman theme, doesn't it?

I bounced that off attorney Warren Brown, a reliably colorful observer of Baltimore crime and politics. Turns out, he represented one of the guys charged in the matter, but only until he got the case transferred to juvenile court. ("I don't mess around with juvenile court," Brown said. "It's a mess down there.") So Brown is not exactly a disinterested observer, but I still wanted his take.

He had no issue with what Pete Rawlings did for Wendell. "I'd do the same thing, no question about that," Brown said. But when it came to the mayor's comments, he did question "the wisdom of her broadcasting" what amounted to "special treatment."

"As much as, you know, in her position, she wants to appear to relate to the people, there is this little something in her that still causes her to let folk know that, 'I am a little better than you are,'" Brown said.

Continue reading "Vozzella: The surgeon on speed dial" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:00 PM | | Comments (2)

Vozzella: Putting their 'Nazi' past behind them

The first time Bob Ehrlich ran for governor, Baltimore political operative Julius Henson called him a Nazi. This time around, Baltimore Sun colleague Laura Vozzella writes, Henson just calls him boss.

Henson, who lost his job as a Democratic campaign mobilizer in 2002 over the Nazi remark, is working as a political consultant to Ehrlich's campaign, Henson and the campaign confirmed this week.

“I'm going to be doing some work for Ehrlich, yes,” Henson said. “I've already begun consulting.”

Vozzella asked Henson how he squared that gig with his comments eight years ago. Back then, Henson told The Washington Post: “Bobby Ehrlich is a Nazi. His record is horrible, atrocious. ... He should be running in Germany in 1942, not Maryland in 2002.” He told the paper that Ehrlich was against “blacks, schools and old people.”

“I did say that, but also, it was in context,” Henson told Vozzella. “The context was, I thought his policies — I disagreed with them and said so. Since that time, if you look at his record, many things — small business — many things I care about in the African-American community, Governor Ehrlich's been pretty right on.”

Continue reading "Vozzella: Putting their 'Nazi' past behind them" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (4)

August 3, 2010

Coulter, Ed Meese raising money for Md. candidates

The tight gubernatorial race is not the only contest in the state attracting national attention this cycle: Ann Coulter and Ed Meese will stump for various state legislative candidates.

Ben Lawless, a Republican running to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Katherine Klausmeier in Baltimore County, will host the Coulter event.

Lawless is paying Coulter to speak – but didn’t say how much. The amount should turn up on his campaign finance filing.

The event is billed as Lawless’s “First Annual Baltimore gala;” Lawless said he picked Coulter because she “says what is on her mind.” Top-tier tickets will go for $1,000 and includes an exclusive reception with Coulter and a suite at the Tremont Hotel, where the party will be held.

Depending on how much a donor is willing to pay, the evening could also include: a VIP reception on a yacht, which will be “Butler’d [sic] with Open Bar;” dessert with Coulter; and a photo with Coutler. All participants will hear Coulter give a “dialogue.”

The event, originally scheduled for Sunday, has been bumped to mid-October due to an illness in the Lawless family. Lawless faces a Republican challenger in September.

Meese, an attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, is going to help raise money for incumbent Republican Del. Ron George, who wants to hold onto his Anne Arundel County seat.

“There aren’t many people who will do events for Republicans in this state,” said Ron George. “It is hard.” George said that he has met Meese at conferences, and the two clicked.

George does not have a primary fight, but may face a challenge from Republican Herb McMillian, who is fairly well known is the district.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:26 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, People

August 2, 2010

After Bartlett, tighter rules for lawmaker lodgings?

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch is calling for tighter rules on lodging expenses for lawmakers after a Western Maryland delegate was found to be using taxpayer money to pay rent to his girlfriend, the Capital of Annapolis reports.

Frederick County Republican Joseph Bartlett, the son once seen as the political heir of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, decided against running for a fourth term after it was revealed that he had spent more than $30,000 in public funds since 2007 to rent space in his girlfriend's house.

Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, told The Capital that legislative and ethics officials should review lodging regulations to see if there is a way to tighten them up.

"We can have a discussion about how to avoid this," he said.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)

July 30, 2010

Rawlings-Blake recalls night violence came calling

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake rarely speaks of the night the city's dangers arrived at her front door. But in the days after the stabbing death of a young Johns Hopkins researcher in Charles Village, she has been thinking about the moment that she says helped shape the way she views violent crime.

"There is no acceptable amount of death. There is no acceptable level of violence," Rawlings-Blake tells Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper. "This is more than a public safety issue. This is a moral issue. All the communities affected by violence need to be as outraged and as determined to pursue justice."

Rawlings-Blake told Scharper she was in her bedroom in her Coldsping condominium that chilly November night in 2002 when the front door banged open and she heard her brother scream: "Call the police!"

Rawlings-Blake hurried to the landing of her split-level home that chilly November evening eight years ago. She found her younger brother hunched in the entryway, blood streaming from his neck and back.

"I didn't know what happened," Rawlings-Blake said. "I didn't know the circumstances. I picked up the phone and I yanked it so hard I pulled the cord out of the wall."

Rawlings-Blake, who was vice president of the City Council at the time, said it furthered her resolve to push for stricter penalties for violent criminals.

"We have to be vigilant to make sure that people who should not be walking among us are off the street," she said.

Continue reading "Rawlings-Blake recalls night violence came calling" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (0)

July 29, 2010

O'Malley praises Jessamy, no endorsement

During an appearance in West Baltimore Thursday to announce $7 million in public safety funding grants, Gov. Martin O'Malley was asked whether he would be endorsing anyone in the city's upcoming state's attorney's race.

O'Malley stopped short of endorsing incumbent Patricia Jessamy, Baltimore Sun colleague Justin Fenton reports, but offered what sounded like high praise for her, saying their "partnership has never been stronger," that they talk every day, and that her "leadership and performance" has been a big part of crime declines in Baltimore. Specifically pressed if he would endorse her, he replied: "I anticipate - yeah, stayed tuned." Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also appeared at her birthday fundraiser over the weekend, according to reports.

That's particular notable, as friction between O'Malley and Jessamy is well-documented, and in one his last acts as mayor he increased her salary dramatically -- 60 percent, or $83,000, to $225,000 -- in what many believed was an attempt to make the position more attractive to potential challengers. When defense attorney Gregg Bernstein announced he would challenge Jessamy in the Democratic primary, Jessamy even accused of O'Malley of putting Bernstein up to it.

Following is a transcript of O'Malley's remarks, which came right after he agreed that Judge John Addison Howard had "dropped the ball" in his handling of suspect John Alexander Wagner:

The Sun: Will you be endorsing anyone in the city state's attorney's race?

O'Malley: We've done a lot of positive things together. I know you all focus on the one case where we disagreed 10 or 11 years ago. but the fact of the matter is, the partnerships between the state and the state’s attorneys office have never been stronger. I have endorsed every Democrat in our state who has endorsed me. That's been our policy, and there’s been a lot of progress made in the city of Baltimore in the last 10 years. Notwithstanding some occasional disagreements, the fact of the matter is Baltimore has achieved the third largest reduction of violent crime of any major city in America. That headline has never made a headline, but its a fact. And the partnerships with the state’s attorney, the higher level of functioning especially with the war room, and the cooperation and collaboration with the Violence Prevention Initiative, you know, underscores all of those things.

We continue to talk, and I believe the state's attorney's office led by Mrs. Jessamy has had a significant part in saving lives over these past years. It would fly in the face of the facts to say it hasn't.

The Sun: So are you endorsing Jessamy?

Continue reading "O'Malley praises Jessamy, no endorsement" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:30 PM | | Comments (2)

July 27, 2010

Gov. notes strides on anniversary of disabilities act

Gov. Martin O'Malley celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act yesterday by highlighting his administration's strides in that arena and presenting citations to advocates of the issue.

O'Malley told hundreds of disabled people and their families and caregivers, who'd gathered at Camden Yards, that "there's no such thing as a spare individual" and "God loves even partial victories."

The Democratic governor, who is seeking reelection this fall, echoed themes of his stump speeches, saying jobs are key to protecting Maryland families and even leading the group on a "we move forward, not back," chant.

Continue reading "Gov. notes strides on anniversary of disabilities act" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration, People

July 26, 2010

Official: No legal action against profane rapper

The city will not pursue legal action against Wale, the Washington, D.C.-based hip hop artist who reportedly used profanity and a racial slur while performing at Artscape, the director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts said Monday.

Organizers were shocked when Wale used offensive language during his performance, BOPA executive director Bill Gilmore told Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper.

“He is not known to do that kind of performance,” said Gilmore. “We were pretty much caught off guard.”

Artscape musicians are cautioned that their acts must be suitable for family audiences, said Gilmore. “This is the first time this had ever happened” at Artscape, he said.

Performers are paid in advance and it is not possible to reduce or revoke the payment, he said. The city does not intend to pursue any type of legal action, he said.

Continue reading "Official: No legal action against profane rapper" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:40 PM | | Comments (4)

July 22, 2010

Gansler wins reelection, by default

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is Maryland's first winner of the 2010 elections.

The first-term Democrat won four more years in office Wednesday when the the deadline for parties to name challengers passed without Republicans finding an opponent to take him on.

"I'm flattered that people in the state of Maryland think we're doing a good job," Gansler told Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey.

The failure of the GOP to field a candidate was striking, given Gansler's vocal support for gay marriage, a position which has put him to the left of many Maryland Democrats.

Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott told Linskey Gansler is "one lucky guy." Scott said she'd hoped to put up a challenger. One candidate changed his mind, she said. Another appeared at the last minute, but party paperwork prevented her from being able to put his name forward, she said.

She would not give names. "We ran out of time," she said. She predicted that there would be more interest in four years.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Law and Courts, People

July 21, 2010

Bartlett joins congressional Tea Party caucus

While there appears to have been some confusion about who is and who is not a member of the new House Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett is making his position clear: The Western Maryland Republican announced Wednesday that he has joined the group.

“I have been cheered at every Tea Party event that I’ve attended because I’m one of only 18 members in Congress who has voted against every bailout bill,” Bartlett said in a statement.

Rep. Michele Bachmann introduced the new caucus Wednesday in Washington with a list of 28 members, including Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who shouted “You lie!” as President Barack Obama gave a speech before a joint session of Congress, and Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who apologized last month to BP for its treatment by the Obama administration following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Later Wednesday, the Furm Forum reported that two of the House members on the list had not yet agreed to join the caucus, and spokesmen for others said they did not know that their members had joined or were unaware that the list was to be made public.

Bartlett, the only Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, confirmed his membership.

Continue reading "Bartlett joins congressional Tea Party caucus" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:35 PM | | Comments (12)

Marylander joins Obama at finance bill signing

Not long ago, Andrew Giordano was dealing with hundreds of dollars in bank fees for service he never requested. On Tuesday, the Locust Point man stood onstage at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington as President Barack Obama told his story.

“If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a student loan, or a mortgage, you know the feeling of signing your name to pages of barely understandable fine print,” Obama said. “What often happens as a result is that many Americans are caught by hidden fees and penalties, or saddled with loans they can’t afford. …

“ That’s what happened to Andrew Giordano, who discovered hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees on his bank statement – fees he had no idea he might face. … Well, with this law … we’ll ensure that people like Andrew aren’t unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account.”

Giordano was one of two citizens who joined Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and congressional leaders onstage as Obama signed a sweeping overhaul of financial regulationts into law.

Continue reading "Marylander joins Obama at finance bill signing" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:01 PM | | Comments (1)

July 19, 2010

Biden in Baltimore to boost O'Malley

Vice President Joe Biden heaped praise on Gov. Martin O’Malley at a Baltimore fundraiser Monday evening, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports, telling a room of 200 supporters that the governor can be trusted to lead in part because he “feels” the pain of ordinary Marylanders “in the gut.”

Speaking for half an hour at the private event at the Baltimore Hilton Convention Center, Biden highlighted some of the themes O’Malley regularly hits while on the stump: keeping jobs in Maryland and pushing a tax credit for small businesses.

Tickets to the event, intended to raise money for O’Malley’s reelection campaign, ranged from $250 to hear the Biden’s remarks to $1,000 for a brief private reception with the vice president. Members of the host committee paid $4,000.

Biden is the first big-name Democrat to stump for O’Malley, who is locked in a tight re-election race with his predecessor, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. O’Malley has already spent more than his opponent, airing two radio commercials and a TV spot. Fundraising reports will not be public until August.

Biden said that he’s known the governor since O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore. “This is a man whose passion for Maryland starts in the gut and moves to the heart,” the vice president told the audience.

The economy and fiscal management was the theme of the day Monday. Hours before Biden arrived in Baltimore, The state Republican party issued a statement calling him “the Administration’s chiefspokesman for the failed stimulus bill” and saying that the legislation had failed to create as many positions as promised – a subject of continuing debate.

Continue reading "Biden in Baltimore to boost O'Malley" »

Schmoke campaign manager defending Jessamy

Over the Baltimore Crime Beat blog, Baltimore Sun colleague Justin Fenton tracks down the sender of an unsigned e-mail written in support of Baltimore City State's Attorney Paticia C. Jessamy:

The first line read, "Jessamy: Tough and Smart on Crime," (her campaign slogan) and it proceeded to explain that since Jessamy took office in 1995, crime had declined substantially. It didn't say whether Jessamy was taking credit for this decline, nor did it draw any parallels between prosecutions and crime rate. There was no contact information.

In an attempt to discern the sender's identity, I wrote back. It turned out it was from none other than Larry S. Gibson, an old hand in politics once described as the "man behind [former mayor] Kurt Schmoke" and a political "kingmaker" in the city. Though the statistics and exact wording of the email appear on the front page of Jessamy's election web site, Gibson said he had prepared the email as a private citizen because it was important that the "public know the truth," calling Democratic primary challenger Gregg Bernstein "dishonest."

Gibson said he has had almost no involvement in local politics since 1999 (he ran former state's attorney Stuart Simms' failed bid for Attorney General in 2006), but wants to get involved with the Jessamy campaign. "I intend to do what I can to re-elect Patricia Jessamy," he wrote in a reply email.

Continue reading "Schmoke campaign manager defending Jessamy" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 10:35 AM | | Comments (7)

July 16, 2010

Michelle Obama coming to Camden Yards

First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at Camden Yards with members of the Orioles next week to promote her campaign to combat childhood obesity, the White House announced Friday.

Orioles Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Will Ohman, Lou Montanez and Corey Patterson and visiting Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford, David Price, James Shields, B.J. Upton will be joined by officials from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for the announcement Tuesday of a joint initiative between Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign and Major League Baseball.

Obama started Let’s Move! with the goal of “solving the challenge of childhood obesity” within a generation so the children of today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. President Barack Obama has created a Task Force on Childhood Obesity to review programs and policies relating to child nutrition and physical activity and to develop a national action plan.

After a press conference Tuesday morning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the players will conduct a baseball clinic on the field for 50 young players from the local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) leagues and Boys & Girls Clubs.

Obama is scheduled to throw out the first pitch before the O’s-Rays game that night. The Orioles are encouraging fans to arrive earlier than normal due to heightened security measures.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:01 PM | | Comments (16)

Marylanders give Steele 19 percent approval rating

Only one in five Maryland voters has a favorable opinion of Michael S. Steele, the former lieutenant governor who now chairs the Republican National Committee, according to a survey released this week by Public Policy Polling.

More than half, meanwhile, have an unfavorable opinion of Steele, and he would lose a hypothetical rematch of his 2006 Senate race with Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin by 30 percentage points, according to the survey. Based in Raleigh, N.C., Public Policy Polling is headed by Democratic pollster Dean Debnam.

Opposition to Steele is particularly strong among fellow African-Americans, the demographic he was supposed to help attract to the Republican Party. Just 6 percent have a favorable opinion of him; 73 percent have an unfavorable opinion. In a rematch of the Senate race, African-Americans would vote for Cardin by an 89-3 margin.

The telephone survey of 569 Maryland voters was conducted July 10-12, before Steele issued his statement Wednesday defending Tea Party activists from accusations of tolerating racism but after his comments about President Barack Obama and the war in Afghanistan.

Those comments, in which Steele described the eight-year-old war as “a war of Obama’s choosing” and said it was not “something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” led to calls from the conservative Weekly Standard and on for his resignation as RNC chairman.

Continue reading "Marylanders give Steele 19 percent approval rating" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (14)

July 15, 2010

O'Malley calls Ariz. law expensive, problematic

In his most extensive comments yet on a debate that is emerging as a campaign issue nationally, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley predicted Thursday that Arizona’s controversial new immigration law would be “problematic” and costly.

“I believe this law is problematic in the long term, especially as it will inevitably be applied,” O'Malley told Washington radio station WTOP.

The Arizona law, which takes effect this month, requires police in that border state to determine the immigration status of a suspect they have stopped for any reason if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is in the country illegally.

Polls indicate the law is popular both in Maryland and nationwide. Supporters describe it as a necessary response to the failure of the federal government to secure the borders

Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last week seeking to stop Arizona from enforcing it.

O'Malley said border protection was the responsibility of the federal government, not the states.

“We cannot substitute for a lack of federal enforcement by turning all municipal, county and state police into a giant immigration service, nor do we have the money to create large detention camps to hold people until they can prove their citizenship,” he said.

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., O'Malley's likely opponent this fall, expressed support this week for the Arizona law.

“It's no surprise, but I oppose what the Justice Department has done,” Ehrlich said. He said the “wholesale failure of federal policy” gave state leaders the right to try to address immigration on their own.

Continue reading "O'Malley calls Ariz. law expensive, problematic" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:20 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Immigration, People

July 14, 2010

Hillary Clinton working to free Md. man held in Cuba

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is urging Jewish groups to help persuade Cuba to free a Maryland man detained on the communist island for seven months without charge.

The Associated Press reports that Clinton told representatives of the American Jewish community on Tuesday that they should add their voices to calls for Cuba to release Alan P. Gross, a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who officials say was helping members of Cuba's small Jewish community use the Internet to stay in contact with each other and with similar groups abroad. Gross lives in Potomac.

"Alan was providing information and technology that would assist this community to be better connected," Clinton said at a State Department reception in honor of Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration's special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, the AP reports. Gross' wife, Judy, also attended the event.

"Our government works every single day through every channel for his release and safe return home," Clinton said. "But I am really making an appeal to the active Jewish community here in our country to join this cause ... because this family deserves to be reunited and each and every one of us should do everything we can to make it clear to the Cuban government that Alan Gross needs to come home."

Gross was working in Cuba for a firm contracted by USAID when he was arrested as a suspected spy in Havana on Dec. 3, the AP reports.

Continue reading "Hillary Clinton working to free Md. man held in Cuba" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)

July 13, 2010

Mikulski has 25-point lead over next challenger

Speaking of polls, a new survey by Rasmussen Reports indicates Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski appears to have little to worry about at this stage of her bid for a fifth term.

The telephone poll of 500 likely voters in Maryland conducted July 8 showed Mikulski with a 25 point lead over Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, perhaps her best-known Republican challenger. Fifty-eight percent planned to vote for Mikulski, 33 percent for Wargotz and 2 percent for some other candidate. Seven percent were undecided.

The margin is similar to that in February, Rasmussen’s only previous report on the Maryland Senate race, when Mikulski had a 54-33 advantage over a generic Republican candidate.

To go with the solid support of the state’s Democratic majority, Mikulski enjoys a 53-28 edge among voters not affiliated with either major party, according to the July survey.

Continue reading "Mikulski has 25-point lead over next challenger" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:14 PM | | Comments (14)

July 12, 2010

O'Malley and Brewer, protecting America's borders

Gov. Martin O'Malley will co-chair a national panel on homeland security with Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer, the most prominent champion of her border state's controversial new immigration law.

O'Malley, a Democrat, was reappointed Sunday to the committee of the National Governors Association. Brewer, a Republican, will serve a term as his co-chair.

The Arizona law, which takes effect this month, requires police officers to determine the immigration status of a suspect if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is in the country illegally. Critics say the requirement will lead to racial profiling; supporters say it is a necessary response to the failure of the federal government to secure the borders.

Attorney General Eric Holder filed a federal lawsuit last week seeking to stop the enforcement of the law.

The NGA committee develops policies to illustrate how federal action affects states, Baltimore Sun colleague Liz Kay writes. In the past, the NGA has issued statements on the 2005 Real ID Act, which established national standards on all state-issued identification; on immigration and refugees; and on cybersecurity, support for military families and illegal drug trafficking.

"There are a lot of issues that by necessity should be worked on across the aisle and across state borders," O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec tells Kay. "There are a lot of homeland security issues that are separate from patrolling the borders."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)

July 2, 2010

Steele tries to clarify Afghanistan remarks

Worth noting in the controversy around Michael S. Steele’s comments about the war in Afghanistan is that he was addressing a Republican fundraiser in Connecticut. The state, home to many workers who commute to New York, lost 65 residents on Sept. 11, 2001.

Maryland’s former lieutenant governor on Friday is explaining remarks from the fundraiser this week in Noank, Conn., in which he described U.S. action in Afghanistan as “a war of [Democratic President Barack] Obama’s choosing,” and said it was not “something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

The U.S. initiated the war in Afghanistan in late 2001 in direct response to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. While the action, which was aimed at rooting out the leadership of Al Qaida and their Taliban hosts, enjoyed broad bipartisan support both among elected officials and the public at large, it was ordered by Republican President George W. Bush, three years before Obama was elected to Congress.

Steele goes on to say that Obama "was trying to be cute by half," by "flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan."

"Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that's the one thing you don't do – is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?" Steele asks. "Everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan."

The best guess is that Steele is referring to Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, following his campaign promises to shift military focus away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan. This approach has also won the broad support of Republicans in Congress, whose main concern has been whether Obama is committed to seeing it through.

Whatever Steele meant – he also described the events surrounding the resignation last week of Gen. Stanley McChrystal “comical” – his comments have drawn quick criticism, mostly from Democrats, but also from at least one prominent conservative. William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, has called for Steele’s resignation.

“Your tenure has of course been marked by gaffes and embarrassments, but I for one have never paid much attention to them, and have never thought they would matter much to the success of the causes and principles we share,” Kristol writes. But this time, he writes, is different:

Continue reading "Steele tries to clarify Afghanistan remarks" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:48 PM | | Comments (3)

Brian Murphy's mystery pick

Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. teased the announcement of his running mate this week for several days. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, meanwhile, tried to build anticipation for a surprise announcement of his own (it turned out to be an award from the National Education Association).

Now GOP gubenatorial hopeful Brian Murphy is trying to get in on the fun. The Montgomery County businessman said Friday he would announce his running mate next week.

The twist: while he wouldn't name the individual, he did offer some hints.

In a release, Murphy said his pick for lieutenant governor "has served the United States with distinction, including duty in the United States Marine Corps, the FBI, the office of Federal Inspector General, and as a Congressional Investigator." The individual currently serves as a "a college forensics professor."

Murphy plans to announce his pick during a public event at 11 a.m. Tuesday at campaign headquarters in Crofton.

Tuesday is the filing deadline for governor and other offices, which raises the question: Why wouldn't Murphy make his announcement now, when he could take advantage of the news vacuum going into the holiday weekend, rather than wait until filing day, when it seems likely to be overwhelmed by the deluge of political information to become available?

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:32 PM | | Comments (2)

June 30, 2010

NEA: O'Malley 'Greatest Education Governor'

The National Education Association, the union representing 3.2 million teachers across the nation, will give Martin O'Malley its "America's Greatest Education Governor" award at its conference in New Orleans on July 5, Baltimore Sun education Liz Bowie reports.

The NEA praises O'Malley, a Democrat, for leaving education out of the budget cuts and for helping to close the achievement gap. A press release on the NEA website says that the annual award is given to governors who have made major, statewide efforts to improve public education.

Interestingly, local union leaders in many Maryland counties have been less than enthusiastic about the education reform bills that O'Malley introduced and helped get passed during last winter's Maryland General Assembly. The Maryland State Education Association has endorsed the governor.

A campaign spokesman for Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., O'Malley's likely opponent in the fall, said "Martin O'Malley can have the union. Bob Ehrlich cares about the students, parents and teachers."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 7:05 PM | | Comments (8)

Does domain name game reveal a new candidate?

One way to get an idea of the candidates Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has been considering for his running mate: Look up which potential campaign website domain names have been reserved, and which remain available.

For example, Ehrlich's former Secretary of State Mary Kane, perhaps the potential lieutenant governor pick most talked about, seems a safe bet. Someone purchased the domain names  and by proxy on June 19.

But domain names for other supposed contenders are still available, making it seem less likely they'll be picked. For example: is not taken, a bad sign for supporters of Howard Denis. Also available is, signaling that celebrity surgeon Ben Carson probably won't be leaving his medical practice. Nobody's bought, so Sen. Nancy Jacobs is probably out.

The method does reveal an interesting new name. Somebody snapped up, also by proxy, on June 24.

Jeanne Allen appeared at Ehrlich's charter school roundtable in Gaithersburg last week, where he heaped praise upon her for her education advocacy and encouraged reporters to talk with her. The campaign schedule for Ehrlich and his unnamed running mate on Thursday includes a visit to the Bluefort Drew Jemison STEM Academy, a charter school in Baltimore.

We’ll know the answer for sure in a few hours, when Ehrlich announced his running mate on Facebook, but Allen has some strong positives for the campaign. As a woman she can help Ehrlich in a demographic in which he trails Gov. Martin O’Malley. She lives in Montgomery County – home to the second highest number of registered Republicans after Baltimore County. And she’s spent her career thinking about education and charter schools as the founder of the Center for Education Reform.

Continue reading "Does domain name game reveal a new candidate?" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:30 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, People

June 29, 2010

A balanced budget, but trouble ahead?

After months of rancorous debate, the search for a solution to Baltimore's $121 million deficit draws to a close this week without the sweeping layoffs or deep service cuts that officials had threatened.

But as Baltimore Sun City Hall reporter Julie Scharper relates, analysts are warning of the potential impact of a little-remarked hike in the income tax, and of more tough fiscal times ahead, as federal stimulus funding dries up and the state tightens its belt.

A budget represents a "snapshot of the next year," not a "strategic plan," said Donald Fry, head of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He said officials should seize the lull after the budget's passage to draft a long-term roadmap for economic development.

Economist Anirban Basu, CEO of the Sage Policy Group, sounded a note of alarm over an increase in the income tax, which nearly doubles the disparity between rate in the city and that of Baltimore County.

"I've never seen such a stealth income tax increase in my life," said Basu, who warned that the hike could dissuade those considering a move to the city or prompt residents to leave.

"The city took two steps back when it only needed to take one step back," he said.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:05 PM | | Comments (1)

June 22, 2010

Jack Abramoff peddling pizza in Baltimore

Well, this didn't take long: Convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now released to home confinement after a brief stay in a Baltimore halfway house, has found a new job.

The Baltimore Jewish Times broke the news Tuesday that Abramoff has found work at a landmark Baltimore pizzeria.

"I think people get a second chance," Tov Pizza owner Ron Rosenbluth told The Baltimore Sun's Jean Marbella. "If they do their time, they deserve a chance."

Rosenbluth said Abramoff started Monday and will be helping with marketing "to get us more business." He did not disclosue Abramoff's salary.

Abramoff, a one-time $750-an-hour lobbyist, had been serving what was initially a six-year sentence at a federal prison camp in Cumberland for defrauding clients and conspiring to bribe public officials. As Marbella notes, he also owned a restaurant in Washington that frequently offered free meals to influential lawmakers.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:24 PM | | Comments (1)

Break-in at Bush house commands attention

How do Baltimore police respond when the home of the daughter of a former president is burglarized? Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Hermann has the answer:

A police officer responded, but so did a detective, a sergeant, a lieutenant, a major and a lieutenant colonel. The police commissioner — who had earlier criticized his own cops for not informing command when a television sports personality was attacked — was quickly called.

But a carful of police brass wasn't the only thing that Jenna Bush Hager and her husband got when at least one burglar broke into their garage in back of their South Charles Street rowhouse on Friday.

A crime scene technician dusted for fingerprints. The description of the two mountain bikes — a black and red Trek with dual suspension and a navy blue Trek — was given to officers monitoring hundreds of surveillance cameras. And the Regional Auto Theft Task Force was notified.

The attention for an otherwise routine burglary — one of 2,963 reported this year in the city through June 5, Hermann writes — did not sit well with many of the readers who commented on the Sun's website.

But police say they have to take seriously a break-in at the residence of the daughter of former President George W. Bush: Any breach of security around a close relative of a former president could be more than a random break-in, Hermann writes. It could be a targeted threat, which authorities don't have to consider in most burglaries.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:45 PM | | Comments (0)

June 18, 2010

Jessamy: O'Malley recruiting challenger against me

Over at The Baltimore Sun's Crime Beat blog, colleague Justin Fenton reports that Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy may have a challenger in the fall election.

Word is that former assistant U.S. attorney Gregg Bernstein is testing the waters, and Adam Meister at blogged that a reader had received a phone call from a pollster asking questions about a possible Bernstein candidacy. Bernstein may be best known for successfully defending state Sen. Larry Young against bribery and extortion charges.

Fenton continues:

But he is also the husband of Sheryl Goldstein, the director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice, which is essentially the mayor's crime czar. In that role, Goldstein works closely with the police department and other law enforcement agencies, and is an integral part of programs such as GunStat and issues dealing with juvenile justice. Obviously, she has a lot of insight into the innerworkings of the criminal justice system, and that would include the state's attorney's office.

Goldstein was brought in during the Dixon administration and is a close ally of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, and may have to step down or take a leave of absence if her husband's candidacy comes together.

Goldstein declined comment, and Bernstein could not immediately be reached. Jessamy, for her part, said she believes Gov. Martin O'Malley "recruited" Bernstein and said she confronted O'Malley with the claim at an event over the weekend.

"I've heard from a lot of different sources that he's been recruiting. I told him, 'I'm ready for it,'" she said. "I think I have an outstanding record; I'm going to run on my record. I don't know what [Bernstein] is running on, but my record, it's a good one."

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O’Malley’s campaign, confirmed that Jessamy approached O’Malley at an event for the Associated Black Charities, but said it’s “simply not true” that O’Malley is behind a potential Bernstein candidacy.

Read the rest of the post at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:51 PM | | Comments (6)

'Enjoy your corporate-funded field trip'

They're angry. And they've named themselves after a hot beverage.

A small group of Coffee Party protesters -- a liberal challenge to the conservative Tea Party protesters -- gathered near the Westin Hotel in Annapolis today to draw attention to the corporate funding of an annual legislative retreat being held there. The National Speakers Conference, hosted by Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, is funded by 67 corporations, The Washington Post reported this week.

Five adults, accompanied by a baby and a toddler, hoisted signs that read "Enjoy your coporate-funded field trip," and that urged passers-by to ask them why they're angry. They chose 10 a.m. Friday because at that time the legislators were attending a seminar about why voters are angry.

"Corporations have showered them with gifts and get exclusive opportunities to speak with them," said Baltimore Coffee Party organizer Susan Larson. "And they wonder why voters are angry?" 

The protesters hastened to say they weren't upset with Busch, a Democrat, but rather the way the system works.

Later, Busch said the four-day conference is going well (Only two major events remain: a chat with histroiran David McCullough and a golf outing). It's the conference's first time in Maryland since the group's inception in 1992.

"There are no taxpayer dollars involved," Busch said. "It's basically run and financed the same as the National Governors Association and the Senate Presidents Association. For the most part, it has a consistent list of clients that support it every year."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:56 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Money and Business, People

June 17, 2010

Laborers endorse Kamenetz for BaltCo. exec

The union representing some 2,000 construction and maintenance workers who live in Baltimore County on Thursday endorsed County Council member Kevin Kamenetz in his bid for the Democratic nomination for county executive, Baltimore Sun colleague Arthur Hirsch reports.

"He's very thoughtful, he asked a lot of questions" during several interviews, said Jayson Williams, political director for the Laborers International Union of North America, which claims a half-million members in all 50 states and Canada. "He's an energetic policy wonk."

Between 100 and 200 members of Locals 710 and 572 turned out at the hiring hall in Overlea Thursday afternoon for the announcement of the endorsement of Kamenetz, who is running against County Council member Joseph Bartenfelder for the party nomination in the primary on Sept. 14. A lone Republican, former House of Delegates member Kenneth C. Holt, is also running.

Williams said in an interview later that Kamenetz has "laid out a vision of how to put people back to work," including support for contract policies that would look beyond the lowest bid to the "best value" for the county. That system would allow points to be awarded for bidders who finish work on time, on budget, who hire local workers, provide health care and other benefits to their members, Williams said.

Kamenetz said in an interview later that the "best value" system would mean "the low bid alone would not be the sole factor" weighed, allowing officials to consider other factors. "Is the employer from Baltimore County? Would the project create economic spinoff to Baltimore County residents?"

Members of Local 710 perform highway and bridge construction and maintenance work such as the construction now going on at the Interstate-95 interchange in the east of the county; those in Local 572 are public employees who work in maintenance departments and as truck drivers.

Continue reading "Laborers endorse Kamenetz for BaltCo. exec" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:02 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, In The Counties, People

City bottle tax in doubt

The controversial bottle tax backed by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to help close $121 million budget gap is in doubt after a key city councilman said he was leaning against voting for it on Thursday, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper reports.

Councilman Carl Stokes, seen as a swing vote on the proposal, said late Wednesday that he does not agree with Rawlings-Blake's plans for the proceeds of the tax on bottled beverages.

Stokes said the revenue should save more jobs than the 70 that Rawlings-Blake says it will preserve; the mayor wants to use the money to restore street-cleaning and sanitation programs, among other initiatives.

"I don't have a reason to vote for the bottle tax," Stokes told Scharper. "If I had a reason, like more jobs and fewer furlough days, I'd vote for it."

A Stokes vote against the tax would likely lead to a 7-7 tie, resulting in its defeat.

The proposed tariff is one of several taxes and fees on which council members are scheduled to vote Thursday at an emergency meeting to help close the city's $121 million budget shortfall before the current fiscal year ends in less than two weeks.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:01 PM | | Comments (0)

Bartlett living with girlfriend at taxpayer expense

Republican Del. Joseph Bartlett has used taxpayers' money to pay rent to his girlfriend in Annapolis during the past three legislative sessions, according to accounts in the Gazette and the Frederick-News Post.

Payments totaled roughly $30,000, according to the news accounts. Members of the General Assembly can qualify for $120 a day per diems during the 90-day legislative sessions.

Bartlett, the son of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, has said he was not dating Katharine Hopkins when he began renting from her in 2008, according to the accounts. When a romantic relationship began, he says, he cleared the housing arrangement with a legislative ethics attorney. Rules bar lawmakers from having contracts with family members or business partners -- but do not cover romantic relationships.

Bartlett told the Gazette's Katherine Heerbrandt that "it is possible I did not think all the way through this." And he told Meg Tully of the Frederick-News Post that if he is re-elected he does not plan to continue having the state pay his girlfriend.

Bartlett is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He has represented Frederick County since 1999.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:15 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: People

June 16, 2010

Cardin, Bartlett are richest Md. lawmakers in D.C.

Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett remain the wealthiest members of the Maryland congressional delegation, according to new financial disclosure reports made public Wednesday.

Bartlett, who valued his assets at more than $1.8 million, supplemented his $174,000 congressional salary last year with between $71,000 and $167,500 in rental income from tenants of properties he owns in Maryland and Tennessee.

Included was between $50,000 and $100,000 from occupants of 14 apartments in a converted barn and silo that burned last month on his 104-acre Frederick farm. The American Red Cross had to assist almost two dozen residents left homeless by the blaze. The May 6 fire caused an estimated $250,000 damage to the structure, which did not have a sprinkler system.

Cardin reported assets of between $1.38 million and $3.4 million, but as with all members of Congress, those figures provide only a partial picture of his holdings. Senators and congressmen are not required to disclose the value of their homes, for example. And the disclosure forms they created permit them to value most assets, debts and income within broad dollar ranges, rather than in precise amounts.

Bartlett and Cardin were among four Maryland lawmakers who drew public pensions from previous government jobs in addition to their current salary. Cardin, a former state House speaker, received $5,368; Bartlett got $15,000 from the state retirement system; Rep. Steny Hoyer padded his $193,400 salary as House Majority leader with $20,481 in pension payments from his dozen years in the Maryland Senate. Democratic Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger boosted his congressional pay with $88,607 in pension checks from government service in Baltimore County.

Continue reading "Cardin, Bartlett are richest Md. lawmakers in D.C." »

Posted by Paul West at 3:40 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: People, Washington

June 14, 2010

Former state GOP executive director dies

Republican political consultant Lance D. Copsey died Sunday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after suffering from a stroke. He was 40.

Copsey cut his teeth in Maryland politics, leading the state's Republican party at its executive director in the mid-90s. He moved to national politics at age 25 when presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander hired him to be the campaign's northeast political director.

Most recently he was the international director at the D.C.-based firm Marsh Copsey + Associates.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele sent out a statement this afternoon calling Copsey "a dear friend" and "an integral part of my team."

"I valued his advice and counsel," said Steele in the statement. "Lance could always cut through the noise and provide well thought out insight."

Copsey graduated from Frostburg State University and married his high school sweetheart Jenny. The couple had two girls, Molly, 10 and Besse, 5. They live in Annapolis.

When not working, Copsey enjoyed time on Chesapeake in his powerboat and rarely talked shop at home, said his mother-in-law Cheryl Jetmore. "I would have to pry things out of him that I needed to know," Jetmore said.

Copsey's death was unexpected, Jetmore said. He'd recently been diagnosed with lateral medullary syndrome and was seeking treatment for it when he died, she said.

Viewings are scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Lee Funeral Home in Owings. A funeral will be held 11 a.m. Thursday at Calvary Bible Church in Lusby.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:46 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: People

June 11, 2010

New poll has Ehrlich, O'Malley in dead heat

A new Rasmussen poll says the state's gubernatorial race is tied with 45 percent supporting Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and 45 percent favoring his likely Republican challenger in November, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Five percent of those questioned were undecided and five percent say they support a different candidate, according to the poll. The poll surveyed 500 likely voters, which has a 4.5 percent margin for error. It is generally viewed as a conservative poll.

A February Rasmussen poll showed likely voters favoring O'Malley, 49 to 43. The gap tightened to 47-43 in an April. The significance of these polls is always difficult to gauge - though it will undoubtedly help with fundraising. Already Ehrlich sent out a blast email seeking $45 donations.

O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said their camp has always been expecting a close race, but cast some doubt on the veracity of the numbers. "The methodology raises some questions," he said. The phone surveys are automated, unlike polls politicians typically bankroll for their own campaigns.

Continue reading "New poll has Ehrlich, O'Malley in dead heat" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:36 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Horserace, People

June 10, 2010

Baking in the sun ...


Baking magnate John Paterakis Sr. made a rare public appearence this morning, sitting in the sun and observed the ribbon cutting for the new Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point that his H&S Development Corp helped finance. Wearing a black t-shirt and aviators, Paterakis stayed toward the back of the crowd and didn't speak at the ceremony. Gov. Martin O'Malley gave him a shout-out and Sen. George Della stopped by his table to say hello.

Paterakis made headlines September when he pleaded guilty to two campaign finance-related charges. Both were related to helping fund a political poll for Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who chaired the committee that approved tax incentives for his nearby projects in Harbor East. The judge in his criminal case ruled that he can not donate money to candidates until January 2012.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: People

June 3, 2010

State Republicans raising money, profile

In a video promoting her candidacy last year for chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party, Audrey Scott pledged to unify the party after the tumultuous tenure of James Pelura, "and then to concentrate on raising money so our party will be positioned to win elections in 2010."

As Julie Bykowicz writes, the early returns have been striking:

Under Scott, who has been active in Maryland Republican politics for 40 years, the organization has been raising tens of thousands of dollars a month — enough to steadily repay former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele a loan that the State Board of Elections said was inappropriate and, party officials say, still bank money for state and local races. The party appears to have raised $60,000 in April alone.

That's after starting the year with $142 in the bank. Last week, party officials say, the GOP returned to solvency after three years in the red.

The GOP remains the clear minority party in this blue state. The Maryland Democratic Party reported close to $220,000 cash on hand in January, when the last reports were made public, and leaders say they have seen strong fundraising this spring.

"We're doing great," Democratic Party spokesman Isaac Salazar told Bykowicz. He said the party sold 900 tickets to its annual dinner last month to raise a record $450,000.

But Republicans are coalescing behind Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in his bid to take back the office he lost four years ago to Gov. Martin O'Malley, and are eyeing legislative pickups in a year that seems to favor Republicans nationally. And Scott says they're raising enough money to compete aggressively in November.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:11 PM | | Comments (0)

O'Malley announces small business initiative

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced a new commission Thursday morning to study small business, and Andy Barth finds the timing suspicious.

Barth's boss, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., has been pounding small business relief in his bid to win the governorship back from the Democratic O'Malley. Not 18 hours before O'Malley's announcement Thursday, Ehrlich was telling small business owners in Carroll County that he would soon unveil "major initiatives" aimed at helping them.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” spokesman Andy Barth told The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz. “But Governor O'Malley, in this case, is too little, too late.”

In fact, O'Malley was announcing an executive order that he signed on Tuesday, based on a recommendation made by a task force in December.

“You can’t start the conversation from today," Rick Abbruzzese, O'Malley's campaign spokesman, told Bykowicz. “The governor understands that leadership is more than just lip service."

Continue reading "O'Malley announces small business initiative" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:12 PM | | Comments (2)

Gansler stays out in front on gay marriage

It turns out that Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's controversial opinion that Maryland should recognize same-sex unions performed in other states was only the beginning.

As Julie Bykowicz writes in her profile of the first-term Democrat, Gansler has taken several opportunities since publishing the opinion in February to proclaim that prohibition of gay marriage is "a clear violation of equal protection."

Gansler, who is unopposed, so far, in his bid for reelection, but is believed to be interested in higher office, also likes to point out that no other statewide elected official in Maryland is as vocal in backing same-sex marriage. Fellow Democrats have questioned the wisdom of getting out in front of so liberal a cause in a state that, while blue, is seen as socially moderate.

"If I were his political adviser and I were neutral, I would certainly say, 'Don't make any enemies, enforce the law, try a couple of cases and get your name out,'" said former Sen. Joseph Tydings, whom Gansler considers a mentor. "An attorney general can run for governor without any real record."

Gansler tells Bykowicz it's a matter of principle.

"To me it just seems so wrong that we deny human beings the pursuit of happiness," he said.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)

June 2, 2010

Md. Mideast peace activist recounts flotilla ordeal

A retired diplomat from Maryland who was aboard the so-called Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos expressed guarded optimism Wednesday that the deadly episode would force Israel to relax its years-old blockade of Gaza.

The Israeli government "may have made a gross mistake," Edward L. Peck said in a telephone interview. "And so, this could lead to an improved situation for the people" of Gaza.

"It's a horrible thing that happened to those Turks who died" in the Israeli attack. "We had people on our ship who were beaten and maltreated," he said. "No one in his or her right mind should want anything bad to happen to a single Israeli, but bad things are happening and will happen because of what is going on in Palestine and Gaza and what isn't going on in Palestine and Gaza."

As a result of its commando assault, believed to have cost the lives of at least nine pro-Palestinian activists, Israel is facing intensified international demands to ease its blockade of Gaza, which had been designed to pressure the Hamas government.

Peck, a former career U.S. foreign service officer who served as ambassador to Mauritania and chief of mission in Iraq, spent four days aboard a Greek ship, one of six vessels that traveled by way of Cyprus before Israeli forces boarded the flotilla in international waters. He returned to his home in the Maryland suburbs of Washington after being deported by Israel.

Continue reading "Md. Mideast peace activist recounts flotilla ordeal" »

Posted by Paul West at 12:19 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: People

June 1, 2010

Kurt Schmoke, Washington power broker

Paul West’s profile of former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and his latter-day career as adviser to the powerful in Tuesday's Baltimore Sun includes a little-reported nugget about Schmoke’s involvement as attorney for then-Senate appointee Roland Burris.

Burris, of course, was the Illinois politician who didn’t decline then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s offer of the seat vacated by President Barack Obama – a seat Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell (from the federal complaint: “I’ve got this thing and it’s [EXPLETIVE] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [EXPLETIVE] nothing”).

When the Senate Democratic leadership resisted the appointment, West reports, it was Schmoke, dean of the Howard University law school, who advised Burris to press his case.

Schmoke had met Burris early in his tenure as dean, when the Illinois politician held a fundraiser for the school at his Chicago home. Now, at a key moment in the Obama transition, Democratic leaders — including the president-elect — were condemning the governor's action, and Burris was phoning for advice.

Come to Washington, recommended Schmoke, and ask for your rightful place in the Senate.

Burris took the advice and eventually was seated — but not before Senate officials initially turned him away. He wound up facing news cameras in a nearby park, making a public demand for his job while Schmoke held an umbrella to shield him from a cold January rain.

Soon after, West reports, Schmoke got a call from a top official of the Baltimore Teachers Union and its national parent in Washington, asking if he would mediate the D.C. schools' long-stalled labor talks, adding to his post-mayoral resume as a troubleshooter and power broker.

Read the rest of the story at

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: People
Keep reading
Recent entries

Headlines from The Baltimore Sun
About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Breaking News newsletter
When a big news event breaks, we'll e-mail you the basics with links to up-to-date details.
Sign up

Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected