- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan says Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. needs to “lead the way” to end a stalemate in the state’s medical malpractice insurance crisis.

“People are posturing, as opposed to coming together to solve the problem,” Mr. Duncan, a Democrat, said Friday.

Mr. Duncan is widely considered a likely challenger to Mr. Ehrlich when the governor seeks re-election in 2006.

Mr. Ehrlich, the state’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years, has said that tort reform is the state’s No. 1 priority. He has been working with Democratic legislative leaders to craft a reform bill for a special session this month.

• Free speech

The Baltimore Sun Co. has sued Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., saying the Maryland governor violated the newspaper’s First Amendment rights when he ordered press officers to stop talking and giving information to two of its writers.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Baltimore, seeks not money but public access, said Timothy Franklin, editor of the Baltimore Sun. It’s an effort to force Mr. Ehrlich to lift the ban.

“We’re simply asking the judge to consider the constitutional implications of the governor’s office’s directive to blacklist two journalists who are clearly being retaliated against because of what they’ve written,” Mr. Franklin said.

The court issued summons to the governor and his aides, ordering them to respond to the lawsuit within 20 days.

Mr. Ehrlich issued his order in an e-mail message sent to employees in the executive department and to public information officers in 19 agencies. It ordered them to stop speaking with and giving information to columnist Michael Olesker and the Sun’s David Nitkin.

The governor issued the order as the newspaper ran several articles examining Mr. Ehrlich’s policies on the sale of state-owned lands.

The lawsuit argues that Mr. Ehrlich’s order will have a chilling effect on free speech by the public in general, as well as reporters.

• Kilgore gears up

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore has started assembling a team of Republican strategists to help in his run for governor next year, and he said last week he will file papers to set up a gubernatorial campaign committee next month.

Mr. Kilgore, a Republican who plans to formally announce his candidacy later, said his campaign will be led once again by political veteran Ken Hutcheson of Richmond. Mr. Hutcheson managed Mr. Kilgore’s campaign in 2001 and was political director for George Allen’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2000. He was director of President Bush’s 2004 campaign in Virginia.

Mr. Kilgore, who is expected to face a challenge from Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine, also named Ray Allen Jr. of Richmond as general consultant, Scott Howell of Dallas-based Scott Howell & Co. as media strategist and John McLaughlin of Alexandria as the pollster.

All three have worked for large Republican campaigns.

• Strike up the band

The Ballou Senior High School Marching Band has an advocate in Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat.

In a letter last week, Mrs. Norton asked President Bush to include the Ballou band in his second inaugural parade.

“Performing in the inaugural parade would be a high honor for young people who … have faced unusual tragedy in their own ranks like no other children in our city,” Mrs. Norton wrote.

Ballou took second place in a national high school band contest last month. The school was the scene of a fatal shooting this year and a mercury contamination last year.

• Connaughton’s in

Sean Connaughton officially opened his Republican campaign for lieutenant governor of Virginia on Wednesday, pledging reforms in state budgeting, transportation, taxes and local government.

Mr. Connaughton also reached out to the party’s religious conservative base with a promise to further restrict abortion and expand President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative to social service and criminal justice programs.

The chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors joins a crowded Republican field battling for the nomination for a job that, except for presiding over the state Senate, has little authority.

Mr. Connaughton said he will push for a clearer role between state and local governments by better delineating the authority all localities have and curtailing the list of unfunded obligations with which the state burdens cities and counties each legislative session.

“Every year, all localities come to Richmond and ask the legislature for just specified authority,” Mr. Connaughton said. “If you take a look at the Code of Virginia, it is a mishmash of authorities.”

He said the state has to safeguard transportation revenues in a trust fund, but it has to be willing to use money from its general fund and from current expected surpluses to revive its road construction programs.

Mr. Connaughton said the state must simplify a budget-drafting process that he called “Byzantine,” and budgeting must be done on a cycle longer than the present two years.

Others in the Republican lieutenant governor’s race include state Sen. William T. Bolling of Hanover, Delegate Joe T. May of Loudoun County and Gil Davis, who unsuccessfully sought the nomination for attorney general in 1997.

• Backing Lierman

Terry Lierman, a Montgomery County businessman and former congressional candidate, has the support of top Democratic leaders to be the next state party chairman in Maryland.

A group of officials that included members of Congress and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley gave their support to Mr. Lierman at a meeting Tuesday.

The current chairman, Isiah Leggett, is leaving the post.

• Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, based in part on wire reports.

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