- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

The latest poll by John Zogby shows Democrats leading in the race for the Maryland governor and the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.

New York-based Zogby International reports that Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, leads Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by 12 points, 52 percent to 40 percent.

Mr. Zogby’s numbers are based on a poll he conducted Jan. 6 to 12, using about 2 percent of a registry he has compiled of likely voters who sign up to take part in his polls.

The survey also shows Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat, leading Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele 49 percent to 43 percent in the race for the Senate. The poll had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.

A recent poll by New Jersey-based Rasmussen Reports showed the opposite results, with Mr. Ehrlich leading Mr. O’Malley by 47 percent to 42 percent, and Mr. Steele leading Mr. Cardin 45 percent to 40 percent. That poll had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

All friends now

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine apparently doesn’t hold a grudge against political foes.

Mr. Kaine, who took office Jan. 14, last week named Mary H. Kilgore, the wife of his Republican rival in the gubernatorial race, as executive director of the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation.

Mrs. Kilgore, married to former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, resigned last summer from the position that she had held since 2001 to join her husband’s election effort full time. Mr. Kaine defeated him in November after a long and bitter campaign.

The Democratic governor said Mrs. Kilgore, a former public-school teacher, was an “energetic and effective” director and called her an “experienced public servant.”

A press release announcing the appointment touted Mrs. Kilgore’s tenure, noting that surveys showed that tobacco use among Virginia middle-schoolers dropped 45 percent when she held the position the first time.

Mrs. Kilgore has campaigned for other family members, including her husband’s twin brother, Terry Kilgore, when he ran for commonwealth’s attorney and in his race for the House of Delegates.

Mrs. Kilgore previously served as deputy secretary of the commonwealth from 1998 to 2001 under Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

Some hailed the appointment as “classy.”

Exit, stage left

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner isn’t wasting any time preparing for his expected 2008 presidential bid, but it hasn’t been easy adjusting to private life.

The Democrat left the Richmond governor’s mansion Jan. 14, and said it has been “a little weird” being back in Old Town Alexandria.

“I keep looking around to find my state police detail,” Mr. Warner wrote on his blog. “So far, I’ve not taken the big step of getting back behind the wheel and driving, but that’s coming, although I should probably post a warning first.”

During his four-year term, the governor was driven around in state-owned black sport utility vehicles.

Mr. Warner already has started work at Forward Together, his Alexandria-based political action committee that was set up to raise money for political candidates. The money also will allow him to travel the country — including a visit to New Hampshire next month.

In an e-mail last week, Mr. Warner responded to well wishes from Virginia and across the country.

“Thanks to Doug Head of Orlando, Florida for the kind words and I look forward to returning to Central Florida soon,” he said, among other comments.

He replied to one of his high school chums: “I assure you I’ll do my best to ‘be part of the dialogue to make the Democratic Party America’s majority party again and make America a safer, more secure, more prosperous place.’”

The green team

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine continues to fill slots in his administration, with the latest round in environmental jobs.

Last week, Mr. Kaine appointed David Paylor as the new director of the Department of Environmental Quality, replacing the retiring Robert Burnley.

Mr. Paylor served as deputy secretary of natural resources under Gov. Mark Warner. Earlier, he spent 25 years at the DEQ and the State Water Control Board.

Mr. Kaine also appointed Nicole Rovner as deputy secretary of natural resources.

Since 2000, she has been director of governmental relations for the Nature Conservancy of Virginia.

Jeffrey Corbin was appointed as assistant secretary of natural resources. He was deputy director of the Virginia office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

And Mr. Kaine reappointed Joseph Maroon as director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, a post he held under Mr. Warner.

Slots redux

The Maryland delegate who introduced a slot-machine bill last year is making plans to do it again.

Delegate Eric M. Bromwell, Baltimore County Democrat, said the legislation is being drafted and that he is talking to House members who may sign on to it.

Mr. Bromwell’s bill passed the House last year on a razor-thin majority built with a fragile coalition of lawmakers. It was bottled up in the Senate by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who ultimately replaced it with a Senate version.

Machines were authorized in four locations — Frederick, Allegany, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Mr. Bromwell said he hopes the bill passes the House again this year and that Mr. Miller realizes he made a mistake.

A spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said the administration is not holding out much hope for slots this year.

Small talk

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele last week crossed off some more municipalities from his list of destinations in the state.

He was in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore for visits to Secretary, East New Market and Hurlock.

He said the visits were intended to show local officials and residents that they have direct access to state government.

While in Secretary, he heard from town officials concerned about growth and demands on the sewer system. In East New Market, Mr. Steele and his aides viewed new housing developments. And in Hurlock, he visited an antiques-restoration business.

Ready for a run

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens isn’t saying yet whether she will run this year for Congress, but she is forming an exploratory committee to raise money for a possible campaign just the same.

If she enters the race, she will join seven other Democrats hoping to succeed Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin in the 3rd Congressional District. No Republicans have announced plans to run. Mr. Cardin is running for the U.S. Senate.

Mrs. Owens also has expressed an interest in running for comptroller, but only if incumbent William Donald Schaefer decides not to run.

School days

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine outlined his education agenda at a gathering of the state’s schools superintendents, acknowledging that transportation is the state’s most urgent issue — but stressing that education is the most important.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, told the Virginia Association of School Superintendents on Tuesday that his top priority for public education is for the General Assembly to fully fund the Standards of Quality, educational objectives mandated by the state constitution. Such measures include curriculum guidelines, testing and graduation requirements, and school staffing levels.

He wants Virginia to be able to recruit and retain good teachers by increasing their salaries to approach the national average and plans to propose a budget amendment to that end.

“There’s no reason that a state that’s eighth in per-capita income should be below the national average” in teacher salaries, said Mr. Kaine, who also said the state should fully fund state employee pensions, a priority for the superintendents’ group.

The superintendents’ association pointed out that Virginia is underfunding the standards by about $1 billion, including a deficit of $624 million to $686 million for salaries, pensions, and health and life insurance.

• Jon Ward and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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