- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has been asked to block out a stretch of time in mid-October to help President Bush campaign.

Mr. Ehrlich has been in regular contact with the president’s campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, and Mr. Ehrlich was advised last week to reserve the time in October.

Mr. Ehrlich has not been given a specific assignment, but he said he expects to stump with the president and speak in swing states on Mr. Bush’s behalf.

Although Mr. Ehrlich’s role will be prominent, it, in all likelihood, will continue to seem modest when compared to that of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

Mr. Steele has campaigned for Mr. Bush in Miami and Cleveland, and he recently received a prime speaking assignment for the Republican National Convention in New York.

Mr. Ehrlich said last week that he might have enjoyed speaking at the big event, but he agreed that Mr. Steele is a more appropriate choice under the circumstances.

“And you’re not going to have two of us speaking from Maryland,” he said.

Mr. Steele helps Republicans show the nation that the party has a place for black business executives, Mr. Ehrlich said.

T-shirt controversy

The Family Foundation of Virginia has asked the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates to denounce a T-shirt sold through Planned Parenthood Federation of America that states “I had an abortion,” although no Virginia offices of Planned Parenthood sell the shirt.

The Family Foundation, a conservative group that opposes abortion, faxed a letter to the local Planned Parenthood offices, calling the shirt “disgusting.”

“As in other states, the Virginia affiliates of Planned Parenthood should immediately repudiate this message,” said Victoria Cobb, director of legislative affairs for the group.

Mrs. Cobb said Planned Parenthood affiliates in North Carolina, South Carolina and Idaho have denounced the shirts.

Bennet Greenberg, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said that no affiliates sell the shirt and that the Family Foundation’s call was a political move.

However, he defended the shirt.

“The T-shirt challenges the silence and shame around an experience one in three women in this country will have shared by the age of 45,” Mr. Greenberg said. “Planned Parenthood work with our patients to provide a full array of reproductive health care services, especially the birth-control methods approved by the FDA that prevent abortions.”

The shirt costs $15 and is offered in the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s online store. The Web page advertising the shirt notes that PPFA did not create the shirt.

“The T-shirt is thus a way for women to take ownership of their personal experiences and to communicate their stories. We believe it is particularly important to help women do so now in the current political climate, when reproductive rights are under unprecedented attack and honest, open discourse is so desperately needed,” the site reads.

Growing war chest

One of the most conservative members of the Virginia legislature is securing a war chest for his re-election campaign next year.

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William Republican, said he raised more than $25,000 at a July 20 fund-raiser.

Among the stars at the fundraiser were U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, Florida Republican, a former Florida secretary of state; former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III; andRep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican.

Mr. Frederick, who is serving his first term, is being targeted by several groups in both the primary election and for the general election in 2005. He is anti-tax and has one of the most conservative voting records in the legislature.

He said he is “expecting the best and preparing for the worst” and hopes to raise $100,000 this year and more next year.

Mr. Frederick, 28, is the youngest lawmaker in Richmond. He said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, has promised to plan another fund raiser for him.

Members sought

Virginia’s main gun-rights group wants to more than double its membership as it prepares for a legislative battle with a newly energized anti-gun group.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) wants to increase its membership from 2,100 to 5,000 before the next legislative session begins in January. The latest recruitment push came several days after The Washington Times reported that anti-gun group Virginians for Public Safety recently signed up 1,000 new volunteers.

“We are going to have a full plate come January,” saidPhilip Van Cleave, president of VCDL. “Can we really double our membership? I say yes. As long as we hang tight, VCDL will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Mr. Van Cleave challenged each member to recruit “at least one other person,” put out a call to get gun clubs involved in the membership drive and urged subscribers of the VCDL newsletter to become members. The group recruited 65 new members at a gun show in Fairfax County earlier this month.

The groups are expected to face off on whether guns should be allowed in establishments that serve alcohol, among other issues. Virginia law allows people to carry weapons in holsters into places that serve alcohol. However, the state does not allow people to carry concealed weapons in such places, even if they have concealed-carry permits.

VCDL wants to repeal the ban on carrying concealed weapons inside places that serve alcohol, as long as the person with the gun is not drinking.

Bob Ricker, executive director of Virginians for Public Safety, said the 1,000 new recruits were people who want to ban guns from places that serve alcohol.

A bill to ban loaded guns from establishments that serve alcohol was defeated in committee this year. A bill that would have lifted the ban on concealed weapons in bars failed during the 2001 General Assembly session, defeated in the House by a 58-41 vote. An identical bill was defeated in committee this year.

Mr. Van Cleave said the ban discriminates against women who prefer to carry their guns discreetly inside their purses.

VCDL and Virginians for Public Safety will square off politically as well, as their political action committees will donate to politicians who support their respective causes in November 2005, when all 100 House seats will be in play.

Delegate sworn in

Maryland Delegate Sue Kullen, Calvert Democrat, took her oath of office in a ceremony last week in Annapolis.

“The Southern Maryland delegation is a strong team, and I am honored to join their efforts to deliver results for the citizens of Southern Maryland,” Mrs. Kullen said. “You can count on me to do what’s best for Calvert County, keep our government lean but not mean and get Calvert’s fair share in Annapolis.”

Mrs. Kullen, 44, was appointed to fill the vacancy left by George W. Owings, who was selected by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to serve as secretary of veterans affairs.

“She accepts a mantle of extreme responsibility,” Mr. Owings said. “I know you will serve our county citizens well. If there is any assistance I can offer, I will.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Calvert Democrat, said, “It’s about time we have more women making policy decisions.”

Mrs. Kullen is the first woman to serve in the legislature from Calvert County.

Mrs. Kullen was born into a military family — her father was a career member of the Air Force. She is a disabilities consultant and has served for the past 10 years on the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, promoting the inclusion of all people with developmental disabilities in community life.

Lawmaker raided

FBI agents and Virginia State Police investigators raided two homes and the Richmond business of a state delegate last week.

Agents took laptop computers and boxes of evidence from Delegate Fenton L. Bland Jr.’shome in Petersburg, which he lists as his legal residence; a house he owns in Virginia’s Prince George County; and his financially troubled A.D. Price Funeral Home in Richmond.

Mr. Bland, a Democrat who represents Petersburg, referred reporters’ calls to his attorney, Joseph E. Prestonof Hopewell.

Mr. Preston said agents seized records related to a petition that Mr. Bland filed late last year in federal bankruptcy court to restructure about $2.1 million in debt at the funeral home.

“They seized a couple of computers,” Mr. Preston said. “We did meet with the FBI and the state police for several hours, and Fenton is fully cooperating with them.”

The warrants were obtained as a result of sealed federal affidavits.

Christina Bellantoni and Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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