- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend yesterday announced retired four-star Navy Adm. Charles R. Larson as her running mate an inspired choice, observers say, that will help her at the polls and deflect questions about whether she is prepared to run the state.

"It was his leadership that restored the Naval Academy to a place of integrity and honor," Mrs. Townsend, a Democrat, said of Adm. Larson's second stint as superintendent of the service academy.

In the wake of cheating, drug, sex and theft scandals involving midshipmen, Adm. Larson was called upon to turn around the Naval Academy and served as superintendent from 1994 to 1998.

Adm. Larson's success led Gov. Parris N. Glendening to name him leader of a task force that recommended ways to reform and improve the University of Maryland system.

"I think today proved she is going to put smart people around her," said Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat who served two terms as governor. "She picked a person of major stature at a time when our country is in danger."

Mrs. Townsend said Adm. Larson a nuclear engineer who served for three years as commander of all U.S. military forces in the Pacific region likely would play an active role in combating terrorism as well as in higher education and economic development.

Since leaving the Navy in 1998, Adm. Larson, 65, has served as a director on several major corporate boards, including Northrup Grumann, Unocal, Constellation Energy and EDGE Technologies.

He said he took leaves of absence from those boards Wednesday. He has not yet resigned as vice chairman of the University of Maryland Board of Regents, he said.

Two weeks ago, he changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat, a move he said his wife and daughters had been urging him to make. He said being a Democrat fits with his support for abortion rights and "reasonable" gun control.

Mrs. Townsend said the offer to Adm. Larson was made within "the last few days." In one of the little gaffes to which she is prone, Mrs. Townsend yesterday introduced her running mate as "Lawson," not Larson.

Before accepting the offer, Adm. Larson said, he sought the counsel of his good friend and Naval Academy classmate Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican whose presidential bid Adm. Larson supported in 2000.

"His advice was 'Go for it,'" Adm. Larson said, adding that they did notdiscuss whether Mr. McCain would campaign for him in Maryland.Adm. Larson said he had felt the Republican Party was drifting further to the right and had voted for Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Townsend in 1998. He did not live in Maryland during their first campaign in 1994, he said.

Adm. Larson said he and Mrs. Townsend have no substantive disagreements on the issues. He also said he supports homosexual rights, that one of his three daughters is a lesbian and he is proud of her and her partner.

"I'm thrilled about the fact that he's right on all the issues," said Maryland Democratic Party spokesman David Paulson. "She's found somebody she can work with somebody who can actually govern, somebody of substance who's actually going to have a hands-on role in government like she has."

Republicans offered little criticism, but some party members said Adm. Larson would find a difference between politics and the military.

"Dealing with fellow naval officers or Annapolis midshipmen or even college professors is quite a bit different than dealing with the likes of [Senate President] Mike Miller and Gerry Evans," said Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, a Republican who represents Howard and Montgomery counties.

He was referring to a lobbyist returning to the State House after serving time in prison for defrauding his clients. "These are people you have to keep a careful eye on. He's not used to having the enemy wrap you in his arms and give you a big hug."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, said it was ironic that the Democrats had selected a former Republican for the ticket after criticizing Mr. Ehrlich for wooing a Democrat, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Mr. Ehrlich will announce his running mate Monday the deadline for candidates to file.

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