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City State: Morning Roundup

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A new poll is due today from the Gonzales Research and Marketing Co. that will include surveys on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's job-approval rating, voters' stances on such key Maryland issues as same-sex marriage and the Dream Act and the re-electability of Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. "He doesn't seem vulnerable based upon what I see," company President Patrick Gonzales told The Washington Times this morning. Mr. Cardin, who is seeking a second term, faces a possible primary challenge from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a black minister.

Candidates in three of the most competitive and closely-watched 2011 state Senate races in Northern Virginia squared off Sunday, distinguishing themselves on such key issues as taxes and abortion, writes David Sherfinski of The Washington Times (click here to read the story). "I am very concerned about the Republican agenda and the desire of some of the Republican leadership to erode a woman's right to choose," said Barbara Favola, the Democratic candidate in the 31st District race. Ms. Favola, an Arlington County Board member, said legislation approved by the General Assembly this year to regulate abortion clinics as hospitals has "nothing to do with safety or best medical practices and everything to do with denying women access to safe abortions."

A single-engine plane crashed Sunday afternoon in the Chesapeake Bay apparently killing the passenger, according to Maryland authorities. The pilot, who swam to safety on Smith Island, said his mother exited the plane before it sank but she died while they were in the water. Officials continue to search for the body of the woman, whose name has not been released. The cause of the crash is under investigation, and state police say they have notified officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Associated Press.

The president of the Virginia Education Association is pressing Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to make K-12 education a funding priority and to increase teacher salaries as part of the states next biennial budget. Mr. McDonnell recently told the state's Board of Education that improving public education will indeed be a priority during the upcoming General Assembly session. But he also said funding will be tight — a message that did not sit well with the state's education lobby, according to The Washington Times.

The number of homicides in the District this year has fallen well below last year's rate, with 2011 three quarters complete. The rate last year was the lowest in decades, according to The Washington Post. As of Friday, 81 people had been slain in the city — more than 15 percent fewer than the 96 homicides reported by the same time last year — according to police figures.

Strong wind gusts have forced an engineers team to suspend its work inspecting the exterior of the Washington Monument for earthquake damage, according to the Associated Press. The National Park Service says the team will reassess conditions this morning. The engineers are rappelling the monument to inspect for damage caused by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23. The quake caused numerous cracks in the 127-year-old obelisk, which remains closed but structurally sound. The exterior inspection began on Wednesday, but weather, including thunderstorms, has caused some delays and complications. On Saturday, engineer Erik Sohn was blown about 30 feet off the monument's face by a gust of wind but wasn't injured. The park service says the team has made minor changes to its safety plan since the incident.

As the Maryland General Assembly prepares to draw new boundaries for its eight congressional districts, majority Democrats are considering plans aimed at squeezing out one or both of the state's Republican congressmen, according to a Democratic strategist familiar with the discussions. One map under consideration would slice Republicans from the Western Maryland district now held by GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett but the Eastern Shore district held by the state's other Republican, Rep. Andrew Harris, would actually become even more Republican. A second proposal would improve Democrats' chances in both Republican-held districts, according to the Baltimore Sun.

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