- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2011

THE D.C. COUNCIL’S TWO-MONTH RECESS is expected to be a quiet departure inside city hall from the recently ended legislative session in which allegations of wrongdoing by several members created a tense and difficult situation. But some of the biggest revelations could become before Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the 13-member council return in mid-September. Sulaimon Brown — a minor 2010 mayoral candidate who claims the Gray campaign paid him and promised him a job to attack incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on the campaign trail — essentially has disappeared since testifying before the council in June. However, the issue is expected to return as council member Mary M. Cheh completes her look into the mayor’s hiring practices, according to The Washington Times.

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR THE VIRGINIA SENATE have outpaced their Republican rivals in second-quarter fundraising, with control of the General Assembly’s upper chamber on the line this fall, senate/” href=”/news/2011/jul/17/democrats-hoping-cash-edge-saves-state-senate/”>The Washington Times reports. Democratic candidates raised roughly $2.5 million, compared with $2.2 million for Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. Democrats hold a 22-18 advantage in the Senate — in a state where Republicans control the House 59 to 39 (with two independents), as well as the top three elected offices — the governorship and the offices of the lieutenant governor and the state’s attorney general.

THE CASE AGAINST TWO MEMBERS OF THE 2010 MARYLAND GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN of Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. moves to court today, according to The Washington Post. The members — Paul Schurick and Julius Henson — are accused of trying to suppress the black vote. With the polls still open on Election Day, a woman’s recorded voice told tens of thousands of blacks who picked up the phone to “relax” and not to worry about going to vote because incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, already had been “successful” in his rematch against Mr. Ehrlich, the GOP challenger. Mr. Schurick and Mr. Henson will be arraigned today in Baltimore Circuit Court. A grand jury indicted them in June.

METRO HAS STARTED A MAJOR EFFORT to spread its message via social media networks, as officials try to counter criticism that the transit agency is unresponsive to the public and to persuade riders that it is a transparent, reliable system. The agency faces increased scrutiny beneath the microscopes of Twitter, blogs and other digital venues, where riders instantly communicate about escalators that don’t move, rail cars that are too hot and waits that are too long. Lynn Bowersox, managing director of public relations for Metro, said the agency is “building a communications infrastructure” that will enable it to be more active on social media outlets and have a “two-way dialogue with customers.” Metro officials have used recent departures in the media relations department to bring aboard new personnel. The authority recently hired a Twitter-savvy chief spokesman and, on Friday, hired a full-time social media manager, The Washington Post reports.

TIM KANE AND GEORGE ALLEN, candidates for a Senate seat in Virginia, continue to spar over the debt ceiling debate, with Mr. Kaine highlighting Mr. Allen’s previous votes as senator and Mr. Allen slamming Mr. Kaine on taxes, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Mr. Allen, a Republican, has said he would not support any debt ceiling deal absent a balanced budget amendment, deep spending cuts and future spending caps, but no tax increases. Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, has said increased tax revenues — primarily through the elimination of loopholes and allowing Bush-era tax cuts on high earners to expire — should be a part of any grand bargain.

A TOUR BUS FROM WASHINGTON TO NIAGARA FALLS crashed in a wooded median in western New York on Sunday afternoon, killing two people and injuring 35, state police said. The crash happened on Interstate 390 in Steuben County at 4:15 p.m., and a preliminary report indicates that a tire blowout might have caused the wreck, a New York State Police spokesman said. The bus, owned by Bedore Tours of North Tonawanda, near Buffalo, left Washington on Sunday morning and stopped for lunch in Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press. Investigators will interview the driver and witnesses and inspect the vehicle to try to determine what caused the crash. The driver lost control of the bus about 55 miles southeast of Rochester.

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MARYLAND-BASED FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, contractors and Social Security beneficiaries are watching as Washington attempts to negotiate a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 or risk defaulting on the nation’s financial obligations, reports the Baltimore Sun. If Congress and the White House fail to broker an agreement, they could all be affected. And the pain would be deeper and more widespread, economists say, than was threatened during the government shutdown. Without authority to borrow money, the Obama administration would face immediate choices on which bills to pay: federal employee salaries or Medicare recipients, out-of-work residents who receive federal unemployment benefits or investors who expect to receive interest payments on the country’s current debt, veterans or air traffic controllers.