- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maryland Democrats might want to push Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett out of office, but he could be the state’s only hope against a foe that has terrorized Republicans and Democrats alike — the brown marmorated stink bug.

Mr. Bartlett announced last week that he has helped secure a $5.7 million federal grant to develop “integrated pest management controls” against the pests, which are native to Asia but have devoured crops and invaded homes in recent years along much of the East Coast, including Maryland.

“The brown marmorated stink bug poses one of the greatest threats to agriculture,” Mr. Bartlett said in a statement. “Chemical solutions are just temporary fixes. It is imperative that we find a non-chemical solution.”

While Mr. Bartlett, also a scientist, wants to remove the bugs from Maryland, state Democrats appear poised to remove him from office. The 85-year-old, 10-term congressman could face an uphill battle for re-election next year if the General Assembly votes this week to approve a new congressional map that would drastically decrease conservative presence in his district.

With stink bugs still swarming in much of the state and Republicans blasting Democratic redistricting proposals as blatant gerrymandering, we’re not sure who’s raising the bigger stink.

Welcome to Virginia, Mr. President

President Obama plans to head to Virginia this week — and the state GOP appears absolutely giddy.

The party launched a “Proud to Stand with Barack Obama” direct mail scavenger hunt offering prizes for people who can identify general-election direct-mail pieces from a Democrat running for state Senate using a picture of the president in a positive light.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, Tazewell Democrat, has said he doesn’t plan to support the president’s re-election effort because of the administration’s handling of the coal industry.

And the Republican Party of Virginia has gleefully proclaimed House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong, Henry Democrat, a member of the “Puckett Caucus.”

This after Mr. Armstrong responded to an RPV-sponsored commercial authorized by his opponent, Delegate Charles D. Poindexter, Franklin Republican, connecting him to the president.

“Now Charles Poindexter is comparing me to Barack Obama,” Mr. Armstrong says in the ad. “That’s a stretch, Charles. I’m pro-life, pro-gun, and I always put Virginia first. That’s why I oppose the cap-and-trade bill. Sure, we need renewable energy. But you don’t do it by raising electric rates.”

And Sen. Mark R. Warner, on a conference call with reporters Oct. 7 to talk up a new Senate measure aimed at streamlining the tourist visa process, also found himself chatting about the purported stiff-arming of Mr. Obama.

Associated Press reporter Bob Lewis asked whether Virginia Democrats’ cooling toward the president was wise about a year before the 2012 presidential election, in which Mr. Obama could need the state to win re-election.

“Which part of the visa problem are you talking about, Bob?” Mr. Warner joked.

“Virginians have always taken an independent bent in our legislative races,” he continued. “I’m not going to second-guess what state candidates are doing or not doing four weeks out from an election,” adding that he could imagine at this point candidates in both parties were running away from Washington, given the public frustration with a lack of collaborative action.

“Bob, did you make sure you got that point about 160,000 jobs, 1 percent of more tourism?” Mr. Warner continued, referring to an estimate by his office that the loss of 1 percentage point of the total world travel market potentially costs the United States 161,000 jobs.

“Yeah, whatever,” Mr. Lewis replied. “It doggone slipped my mind.”

Is @IAFF36 the new @dcfireems?

The removal of the District’s fire department spokesman and neutering of the agency’s Twitter account has left a void in the District’s “Twitterverse,” but members of the agency’s union say they plan to pick up the slack.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Pete Piringer was shucked of his duties, which notoriously included the live tweeting of emergency operations across the District, and temporarily transferred to the Office of the Secretary this week.

In his absence, the D.C. Firefighters Association has begun dabbling in Mr. Piringer’s former duties. The union’s own Twitter account, @IAFF36, posted several messages — including some about ongoing operations.

The tweets seemed to begin Friday morning, one notifying followers of a track fire at Union Station. At about 11 a.m., the union tweeted this notice: “Update, Barricade situation 1900 Mississippi ave SE is under control.”

Union President Edward C. Smith acknowledged that the group, which in the recent past had mostly tweeted links to news articles, planned to step up its activity.

“We are going to try to fill Pete’s shoes, though those are some shoes to fill,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a valuable service and we want to continue that.”

• David Hill, David Sherfinski and Andrea Noble contributed to this report.