- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said yesterday that his campaign for U.S. Senate has had several “hiccups” in recent weeks with the departure of two top campaign officials, but that he has not lost momentum.

“I want a strong team around me, and I’m the kind of guy who’s not going to sit back and wait for the wheels to come off,” he said after a campaign rally. “I’ll take the wheels off myself and replace them with better wheels, if I have to.”

Steele campaign spokesman Lenny Alcivar resigned last week, a few days after the disclosure that campaign manager Graham Shafer had left a few weeks earlier.

Mr. Alcivar and Mr. Shafer previously worked for the Republican National Committee.

Party sources said they resigned over the lack of access to Mr. Steele.

Mr. Steele’s State House staffers have tried to keep him out of the spotlight while a crowded field of seven Democratic candidates fight one another, sources said.

They also have tried to limit the roll of national Republicans, who have sought a more active and visible profile for Mr. Steele, the sources said.

Mr. Steele must win the election in a state that has twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

The Democratic front-runners are Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term congressman from Baltimore, and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The campaign suffered another setback earlier this month when Mr. Steele attended an event for the Baltimore Jewish Council and compared embryonic stem-cell research to experiments conducted by Nazi doctors during the Holocaust. The event was attended by Mr. Cardin’s wife.

Mr. Steele apologized for the remark.

He said yesterday that the campaign remains in a “very strong position” and that he expects to name a new campaign manager within days.

“I don’t feel I’ve lost any momentum,” Mr. Steele said. “Every campaign has hiccups.”

Mr. Steele also said he does not want to “get into that full campaign mode right now,” with about nine months remaining before the general election.

“I’d prefer to do my job, to be honest with you,” he said. “And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

Most of the 56 Republicans in the 188-member General Assembly attended the rally yesterday on the Annapolis City Dock.

Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore Republican, called Mr. Steele “the one candidate who can unify Maryland.”

“Michael, we are so proud and so pleased that you are a really genuine family man and a great intellect, a man of great values, and we think the right philosophy for the state of Maryland,” he said.

House Minority Leader George C. Edwards, Garrett and Allegheny Republican, said Mr. Steele’s campaign is getting “stronger and stronger.”

“I don’t think losing folks in the campaign means anything,” he said. “It’s early.”

Mr. Edwards said Mr. Steele is well-known and liked throughout the state.

“He’s a down-to-earth person,” he said. “He’s not holier than thou, I’m up here, you’re down there. He’s just a general kind of a guy, and I think people relate to that.”

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