- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is opposed to mandates requiring jurisdictions to honor the flag of defeated South Vietnam, a spokeswoman confirmed last week.

During the 2003 General Assembly session, lawmakers, lead by Delegate Robert D. Hull, Falls Church Democrat, attempted to require Virginia to formally recognize the flag of the former South Vietnam. The measure easily passed the House of Delegates, but the U.S. State Department voiced opposition to the measure and it eventually died in a committee. Mr. Warner, a Democrat, declined to comment as the debate was going on.

Later in the year, however, Mr. Warner met with trade officials from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, including Vietnamese Standing Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Dinh Bin, whom he told he was opposed to the idea.

“He did tell them he does not favor government mandates about the display of flags of [a] deposed government, and he does not believe local governments should be engaged in decisions affecting foreign relations,” said Ellen Qualls, press secretary to Mr. Warner.

The idea of honoring the flag of the former South Vietnam is popular among the many immigrants who moved after the end of the war because they did not want to live under the rule of the victorious north. Virginia is home to nearly 40,000 Vietnamese immigrants, most of whom are native to what was South Vietnam.

The flag of what was South Vietnam is yellow with three red stripes. The flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is red with a yellow star in the middle.

“Every time a [Vietnamese immigrant] is faced with looking at the flag of Vietnam, it goes against everything they believe as a part of the history of their country and their culture,” said Catherine Hudgins, a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors who earlier this month sponsored legislation that recognizes the flag of South Vietnam as the official flag of Vietnamese heritage for Fairfax County. The measure passed unanimously.

The State Department, which has not taken a position on the Fairfax decision, was adamently opposed to the legislation put forward by Mr. Hill earlier this year and says it recognizes only one flag for Vietnam, that of the current nation.

“The U.S. recognizes and has diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Its flag is on display in the C Street lobby of the State Department,” said Brooke Summers, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman.

• Three is not a quorum

A state panel rejected a claim by Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty that three city aldermen violated Maryland’s Open Meetings Act when they met in May with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

Miss Dougherty said the trio constituted a quorum of the five-member Board of Aldermen and their gathering should have been advertised as a public meeting.

The meeting with Mr. Steele was held by the Chamber of Commerce at the lieutenant governor’s request, and the three aldermen attended along with a group of business owners.

• Keep D.C. in D.C.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he is opposed to a D.C. group’s effort to allow D.C. voters a say in Maryland elections as one of its newest cities.

“Obviously, voting rights can be given to folks in the District without a pure retrocession process taking place,” Mr. Ehrlich told WMAL-AM (Radio 630) on Friday. “Retrocession has always been a ‘no’ from my perspective.”

Mr. Ehrlich was responding to efforts by the Committee for the Capital City, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group.

One of the committee’s goals is to have the District be considered a part of Maryland for congressional representation.

• No party animals

Maryland lawmakers wound up a five-day conference with legislators from across the country on Saturday.

Despite the sizable delegation that traveled to San Francisco for the conference, the Baltimore Sun reported their week had been heavier on policy and lighter on perks than in past years.

About 60 Maryland lawmakers made the trip for the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, making it the third-largest delegation at this year’s gathering. Part of the reason is that Delegate John A. Hurson, Montgomery County Democrat, was installed Saturday as the organization’s president-elect.

Dozens of lobbyists followed the Maryland delegation to California, but the most prominent, Bruce Bereano, attracted bad publicity when he booked a lavish cruise that was later canceled.

• Early support

U.S. Rep. Albert Wynn, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 4th District, announced Wednesday that he is backing John Edwards’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. The announcement came as the North Carolina senator met with the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Mr. Wynn is a member.

m Veto on volunteering

Six local electoral board members from across Virginia are asking Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore to reconsider an opinion that they cannot work as volunteers in campaigns they oversee.

The members, all Democrats, suggested that Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, had issued the opinion because the state’s electoral boards changed into Democratic hands March 1.

In the opinion, Mr. Kilgore said electoral board members should be governed by the same electioneering restrictions as voting registrars.

Mr. Kilgore said that means they cannot hold office, they cannot serve as political party officials and they cannot serve as paid or volunteer workers for candidates in the jurisdiction they serve.

The board members who wrote to Mr. Kilgore are from Richmond, Roanoke and Chesapeake, and Albemarle, Wythe and Fairfax counties.

• Republican hopes

Maryland State Sen. E.J. Pipkin is considering a request from the head of the Maryland Republican Party that he run against Democrat Barbara Mikulski in next year’s U.S. Senate race.

“We approached him to see what his interest would be,” John Kane, chairman of the state party, said Wednesday.

He said Mr. Pipkin is “a little reluctant” to enter a statewide race just two years after winning his seat in the state Senate, but will take a look at the race “for the good of the party and Maryland.”

Mr. Pipkin said he was flattered. “I want to talk to various people to see if it’s doable,” he said. But he said he is happy representing the upper Eastern Shore in the Senate.

• Staff writers Robert Redding and Mary Shaffrey and the Associated Press contributed to this column.

“I’ve got the best job in the world, and I’m really loving it,” he said.

Miss Mikulski, who is expected to seek a fourth term next year, got 71 percent of the vote in her past two elections, and Republicans acknowledge she will be difficult to beat.

But Mr. Kane said Miss Mikulski has never “run up against a well-financed candidate who was already serving in public office.”

He said Mr. Pipkin, a former Wall Street investment banker, “would be able to invest a fair amount of his own resources and raise a fair amount of money.”

• Council member arrested

FBI agents arrested Richmond City Council member Gwendolyn C. Hedgepeth last week on charges of accepting a $2,000 bribe and lying to federal law-enforcement officers.

She was brought to U.S. District Court in handcuffs Thursday afternoon and released on her own recognizance pending an Aug. 4 preliminary hearing.

The arrest was part of a “continuous effort to strengthen the integrity of public service in the city of Richmond,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty in a news release. “The citizens of Richmond demand and deserve honest service from their elected officials. We are determined to see that they get it.”

The criminal complaint accuses Miss Hedgepeth of taking $2,000 to support a candidate vying to fill the vacant 6th District council seat. The ordained Baptist minister also is accused of lying to federal authorities about $500 she received regarding her support for a candidate in the mayoral election in January 2003.

Authorities said they obtained information through an unidentified informant and have video and audio recordings of Miss Hedgepeth’s activities.

They said there is no allegation that other council members or candidates engaged in criminal conduct.

Miss Hedgepeth’s arrest comes at time when the council is trying to fill two vacant seats.

In June, Councilman Joe Brooks died unexpectedly. On July 1, Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He could face three years in prison when he is sentenced in October. El-Amin admitted that he failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxes and refused to cooperate with an Internal Revenue Service investigation.

• Banned in Borders

A Borders Books & Music store in Fredericksburg, Va., has banned a Baltimore singer-songwriter from performing there after she made an unflattering comment about President Bush’s physique during a concert at the store last week.

Julia Rose, who is also a fitness advocate, told the audience, “George Bush has chicken legs. He needs to pump some iron.”

Miss Rose said she has made the same comment at other Borders stores.

“In fact, the audience in Fredericksburg laughed when I said this,” she told the Free Lance-Star newspaper. “The reaction was nothing different than typical crowds I’ve had.”

Amy Korsun, area marketing manager for the Michigan-based bookstore chain, confirmed Wednesday that Miss Rose has been banned from performing at the Fredericksburg store, although she declined to say why. She said Miss Rose will be allowed to continue playing at other Borders stores in Virginia.

Miss Rose said she’s mystified by the reaction.

“I never said anything about Bush being a bad president or anything,” she said. “I was just poking fun at his scrawny frame.”

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