- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

Things seem to be going from bad to worse these days for Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "The thing that has worried people is: Can she do the job? And she hasn't projected that she can," says one of Townsend's own Democratic ticket-mates, Maryland comptroller and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The latest messes Mrs. Townsend (known to many of the masses as KKT) is trying to spin her way out of are both related to her ruinous performance in overseeing the state's juvenile-justice system, her major substantive policy-related role during her eight years as the number two official in the state. New stories, reported on a near-daily basis late last week by liberal-leaning media organs like The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, raise serious questions about the state's expenditure of funds to fight juvenile crime and the ability of juvenile-services officials to prevent young criminals under home detention from committing more violent crimes.
The latest juvenile-justice problems have to be particularly jarring to Mrs. Townsend, because last week began on a relatively high note or at least a high note for a political candidate whose campaign has been in a state of political free-fall for the past month or so. On Monday, KKT reconciled with four influential black Democratic machine politicians from Prince George's County, led by Rep. Albert Wynn; the Wynn group refused to attend a Townsend photo-op earlier last month and urged their supporters to boycott the opening of her P.G. office to protest the candidate's selection of highly decorated retired Adm. Charles Larson, who is white, to be her running mate.
Mr. Wynn announced that Mrs. Townsend had agreed to fund a laundry-list of projects at P.G. colleges; to provide more state contracts for minority-owned businesses and throw more tax money at nice-sounding programs to prevent AIDS and teenage pregnancies. For his part, Mr. Larson, who claimed to have had a scheduling conflict, didn't bother to show up for the press conference. Not exactly a rousing show of Democratic Party unity. But, compared to all the bad news Mrs. Townsend had been getting of late, the "unity" session was a relative high point for her campaign.
It didn't last long. The Post reported two days later that a federal grand jury is investigating grants awarded to at least three P.G. County nonprofit groups by the Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the agency which Mrs. Townsend has overseen since 1995, when Gov. Parris Glendening designated her his crime czar. U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio is seeking documents related to $503,000 in federal grants which were to have been spent on rehabilitating 200 juvenile criminals in P.G. County. One of the programs, which Mrs. Townsend oversaw, was plagued by administrative problems and shut down by her own agency, but not before paying out $42,000 to settle claims by several people who said they had been employed under the federal grant. The group in question has P.G. Del. Joanne Benson, a Democrat, chairing its board; the executive director is the daughter-in-law of Democratic Sen. Gloria Lawlah, one of the black P.G. politicians who joined Mr. Wynn in reconciling with Mrs. Townsend several days earlier.
And things just seem to grow worse for KKT: The Sun reported that three teenagers, supposedly under the supervision of the "crime czar's" state Department of Juvenile Justice, were charged in separate slayings after slipping off home-detention monitors and disappearing from sight.
It should come as no surprise that Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich has nearly drawn even with Mrs. Townsend in the polls. She's in serious political trouble, and that has a lot of her fellow Democratic machine politicians deeply worried.

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