- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

The leader of a Maryland Hispanic Republican group has a message for Delegate Luiz Simmons, Montgomery Democrat:

“We want Mr. Simmons to know the door is still open for him to come back [to the Republican Party],” says Luis Borunda, chairman of Hispanic Republicans of Maryland.

Mr. Borunda says he was “disturbed” that the state’s Democratic Party had excluded Mr. Simmons — the state’s first elected Hispanic — from its efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters.

Mr. Simmons first learned that his party leaders had formed an outreach group called the Maryland Democratic Hispanic Caucus when The Washington Times contacted him for a comment last week.

Mr. Simmons — first elected to the House in 1979 — said he might not have been invited because he does not tout the fact that he is Hispanic and that he was a Republican until 1982.

He said he looks forward to participating in the caucus despite the snub.

• Batter up

Twenty-eight Little Leaguers played baseball yesterday on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Bolling Air Force Base Cardinals from the District and the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station Devil Dogs from Havelock, N.C., faced off in the 10th game to take place on the South Lawn since May 6, 2001. All players were from the T-ball division of the Little League and ranged from ages 6 through 8.

No score was kept in the one-inning game.

President Bush, the first former Little Leaguer to be elected to the nation’s highest office, began the initiative to boost interest in baseball among children and parents. He gave a short speech before the game yesterday, welcoming the participants and introducing the announcer, sportscaster Joe Buck.

“We’re fortunate to have Joe Buck here today,” Mr. Bush said. “He followed in his dad’s footsteps, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

About 200 friends, family and parents were in attendance for the game as Mr. Buck called the play-by-play. After the game, Mr. Bush gave each player, manager and coach an autographed baseball.

“Getting to meet the president was more exciting than the game,” said Caitlin Solter, 8, from New Bern, N.C. “I felt real lucky to meet him, and coming here has inspired me to keep playing baseball.”

• Blaming mom

Two losing candidates for mayor and City Council in Gate City, Va., have filed a lawsuit over what they say was a slipshod election run by the mother of state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore.

Mark Jenkins and Eric McMurray each lost their races by several votes. But they say the office of Scott County Voter Registrar Willie Kilgore issued absentee ballots to many people who did not qualify for them.

Mr. Jenkins lost his race for mayor by two votes. His opponent, Charles Dougherty, received 138 absentee ballots, while Mr. Jenkins received 20.

Mr. McMurray received 23 absentee votes, compared with the top two candidates, who received at least 140 each.

Applicants for absentee ballots need to prove that they will be out of town for business, that they are students, or that they work more than 11 hours a day.

The lawsuit says many people who said they were going to be out of town on Election Day actually had remained in Gate City.

Mrs. Kilgore’s office denies any wrongdoing.

• D-Day lessons

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is considering an education initiative to teach every student in the state the lessons of World War II.

The Republican governor returned last Monday to Annapolis from a trip to Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. He had traveled with a group of veterans of the Army’s 29th Infantry Division, which included reservists from Maryland and was part of the first wave of the Allied invasion to liberate Europe.

“Visiting Normandy, getting to know these guys, learning firsthand about the importance of this day in the history of the world — it’s something that needs to be shared,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

He said it would be “tragic” if the lessons of suffering and sacrifice were lost over time.

“The initiative involves gathering interviews, documents, everything we can get our hands on” that offers a personal account of how Marylanders fought and died on D-Day, Mr. Ehrlich said.

Maryland lost 6,465 residents in World War II.

• What problem?

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said Friday that he sees no reason for the U.S. Justice Department to invalidate Richmond’s plan for direct election of its mayor.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, Newport News Democrat and the state’s only black member of Congress, has urged the department to reject the plan, which he says would dilute minority voting strength in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

“As the state’s top legal officer, I’m hard-pressed to see how the citywide election of Richmond’s mayor constitutes a violation of this act,” Mr. Kilgore told a Richmond government reform commission that crafted the plan.

The commission was led by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat and the nation’s first and only black elected governor, and former Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, Richmond Republican. Eighty percent of city voters approved the plan in a referendum.

Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Wilder briefed the commission on the status of the proposal a day after Mr. Wilder traveled to Washington to counter Mr. Scott’s attempt to derail the plan.

The Justice Department is expected to rule on the plan by June 21.

Mr. Wilder, who is running for mayor under the at-large election plan, said he provided officials some background that they did not appear to have. For example, he told them that every black member of the General Assembly voted for the legislation authorizing the change, pending approval of the voters.

“I don’t think they knew that,” Mr. Wilder said. “I told them the two members of the legislature who introduced this measure were African-Americans from Richmond. I don’t think that had been brought to their attention.”

Mr. Kilgore said black voters in Richmond have no say in the city’s top leadership post because the City Council chooses the mayor from its members. He noted that several other city leaders, including sheriff and treasurer, are elected by all the voters.

Richmond, with a population nearly 200,000, in recent years has had one of the nation’s highest murder rates and has had two council members convicted within the past year of bribery and tax evasion.

• Quitting

The chairman of the Emergency Planning Committee in Frederick County, Md., has quit.

Mike Hanna submitted his resignation in a letter June 7.

In the letter, Mr. Hanna says some county officials are manipulating the emergency planning effort for political reasons.

According to Mr. Hanna, County Commissioner Jan Gardner and an assistant county attorney want to convert the committee into a panel monitoring storage and disposal of chemicals.

Mr. Hanna says that idea is a smoke screen, aimed at replacing Sheriff Jim Hagy as the county’s homeland security coordinator.

• Robert Redding Jr. and Frank Petrignani contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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