- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 28, 2004

The local delegations going to the Republican National Convention will take advantage of the eventto highlight their priorities — from promoting rising stars and reaching new voters to keeping taxes low.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele will use his prime-time speech Tuesday in New York City to remind party leaders that the 2002 election proved Maryland is the “little political engine that could.” Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in that election to become Maryland’s first Republican governor in three decades.

“To have Maryland on the national stage is going to be just tremendous,” Mr. Steele said. “We did something that was unprecedented, totally unconventional. We beat a Kennedy. We are changing the political dynamics in the state. We are players. We have arrived.”

Mr. Steele, one of the highest-ranking black Republicans in the country, said his 15-minute speech also will address how to empower the poor and disenfranchised and how the party can be more inclusive.

The 64 Virginia Republicans will lead the local delegations in promoting low taxes and small government.

The Republican-controlled Virginia legislature this year passed the largest tax increase in state history, something the state party opposed. The tax increase was passed only when a group of moderate Republicans broke from the party and joined Democrats.

Virginia Republican Party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin said the increases were unnecessary because the state’s economy was improving. In fact, President Bush’s tax cuts sparked the recovery, she said.

“You’ll hear a lot of talk [at the convention] about the importance of keeping taxes low,” Mrs. Griffin said.

The Virginia delegation also will host parties to promote Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore’s anticipated run for governor in 2005. Mr. Kilgore is chairman of the state’s delegation and its Bush-Cheney campaign.

Though the state has not voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Democrats are treating Virginia as a battleground state. Republicans disagree.

Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, has not helped to send a Republican to the White House in 16 years.

“We are dealing with an awful lot of liberal folks in the state, and we have to convince them the Bush-Cheney ticket is the one for them,” said Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane.

The District, which never has voted for a Republican for president, had a setback Friday when efforts failed to get party leaders to endorse voting rights for District residents. The District is the only jurisdiction in the nation that pays federal taxes but has no voting representation in Congress. However, the 34 D.C. delegates will help promote candidates for local offices.

Michael Monroe, 24, hopes to unseat D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting congressional representative.

Jerod Tolson is running for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat against incumbent Kevin P. Chavous, a Democrat, in the November election.

W. Ronald Evans, senior vice chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee, said he was “disappointed” about the voting rights issue, “but the point is, we did fight for it,” he said.

Still, the District had several minor victories in getting its agenda into the platform, said D.C. Republican Committee Chairman Betsy Werronen. The platform, she said, endorses legal and budget autonomy for the District, which means Congress would not have to review D.C. laws and the District might be able to elect its own attorney general. The platform also calls for more control over D.C. spending, endorses “respecting the unique” homeland security and budgetary constraints on the District.

Mrs. Werronen said the Republican National Committee has agreed to take up the voting rights issue in its resolutions committee in January.

The committee endorsing voting rights would significantly help the chances of a bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, which is pending in Congress.

Mr. Davis’ bill would give the District one representative but no senators. The bill also would give Utah, a traditionally Republican state, one additional representative. Many Republicans support this bill because it likely would add one Democrat and one Republican to Congress, keeping the Republican House majority intact.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Democrat, will address District Republicans on Monday during the Republican convention.

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