- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2003

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said last week he would support Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett over Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle should Mr. Rolle, a close friend of the governor’s, make a run for the Republican congressman’s seat.

Mr. Rolle is considering a primary challenge of the six-term congressman in the 6th Congressional District, which spreads from Garrett County in the state’s far west to part of Harford County in the east. Mr. Rolle has said he would announce his decision in October.

Mr. Ehrlich told the Frederick News-Post Sept. 15 that Mr. Rolle’s future on the party “bench” is bright — if he is patient.

“Scott is one of the rising stars on that bench and he needs to be obviously careful about his career choices and his career paths, because I can see him running and winning statewide office one day,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

mToll tales

Drivers of passenger cars shouldn’t have to pay tolls on Interstate 81 because commercial trucks are responsible for most of the traffic congestion, said U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat.

“I strongly oppose and have urged a rejection of any proposal to place tolls on passenger vehicles in Interstate 81,” Mr. Boucher said Friday. “The traffic congestion problem on the interstate arises from commercial truck traffic, 77 percent of which originates from a point outside of Virginia [and traveling] to a destination that is outside of the state.

“If it were not for such a large volume of truck traffic … we would not be having this discussion about a major reconstruction project for the interstate,” he said.

Mr. Boucher held a news conference two weeks after the release of two private-sector proposals — from Star Solutions and Fluor Corp. — to rebuild the 325-mile Virginia section of I-81.

Fluor has recommended tolling all traffic to pay for its $5.9 billion proposal. Star’s estimated $6.3 billion plan is based on charging trucks only, but it includes alternate scenarios to charge tolls on passenger cars and to reduce truck toll rates.

Mr. Boucher said Virginia’s law prohibiting tolls on passenger cars on interstates should remain as is, noting that most I-81 car traffic is within and not through the state.

Charging trucks based on miles traveled is “entirely consistent with principles of fairness,” Mr. Boucher said. He said trucks passing through Virginia to and from other states should pay higher tolls than in-state trucks.

With federal and state funds being tight, truck tolls are the most realistic way to finance any I-81 overhaul, Mr. Boucher said. He said studies indicate truckers wouldn’t clog U.S. 11 to bypass I-81 and avoid tolls.

Mr. Boucher said he also has urged Gov. Mark Warner and state Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement to support physical separation of truck and car traffic in a future I-81 overhaul. Mr. Boucher is suggesting an upgrade of Norfolk Southern’s rail corridor along I-81 south to Bristol.

mPast imperfect

Republican Thomas L. Peterson has abandoned his campaign to unseat Virginia Democratic state Sen. W. Roscoe Reynolds after a newspaper raised questions about a drunken-driving conviction, a bankruptcy filing and a child-support dispute with his ex-wife.

Mr. Peterson told the Roanoke Times he feared the events in his personal life would hound him for the remainder of the campaign.

“I don’t wish to be part of this kind of campaign,” Mr. Peterson said in a telephone interview with the newspaper Tuesday.

Mr. Peterson, a Floyd County business consultant, moved back to his hometown to challenge Mr. Reynolds, a Henry County lawyer, for the 20th District seat he has held since 1997.

The Roanoke Times uncovered Mr. Peterson’s history after searching through court records in four states to verify a Democratic source’s claim that Mr. Peterson lagged behind on child-support payments.

Court records in Kansas show that Mr. Peterson owed more than $10,000 in overdue child-support payments for his two children as recently as February, one month before he declared his candidacy.

Mr. Peterson, 44, initially disputed the figure, and said he has filed a petition to modify the child-support order that was part of the 1995 divorce agreement with his wife.

He told the Roanoke Times he has never tried to hide his legal and financial problems. He said his 1996 drunken-driving conviction was a “wake-up call” that happened during a troubled time in his life. The bankruptcy filing came after a failed business venture for which he had used his home as collateral, he said.

“I have never claimed to be perfect,” he said. “All of these things I have gone through have made me stronger.”

But Mr. Peterson told the paper he decided to drop out of the race after talking with local and state Republican officials, who were not aware of his past problems.

“I do apologize, not only to my family, but I also apologize to the people of the district, the community and the party,” Mr. Peterson said.

Republican Party of Virginia spokesman Shawn Smith confirmed that Mr. Peterson told party officials Tuesday that he was stepping down.

Mr. Reynolds, who also served 11 years in the House of Delegates, reported $51,268 on hand in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 15, compared with $5,130 for Mr. Peterson, according to campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the State Board of Elections last week.

mDeadline nears

Virginia’s voter registration deadline is two weeks away for people who want to cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. Oct. 6.

“There are typically some that come in at the last minute, but we’re always prepared to receive them,” said Lynda Sharp Anderson, deputy secretary for the State Board of Elections.

All Department of Motor Vehicles offices accept registration applications, including DMV mobile driver’s license offices. Applications also are available through state voter registration offices, libraries, military recruiters and state agencies providing services such as rehabilitation or disability aid.

Only Virginia residents who don’t intend to vote in another state may apply.

Registration cards arrive by mail after applications are approved.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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