- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

Virginia lawmakers and officials are gearing up for a showdown — but this one’s not about the budget or taxes, and it cuts across party lines.

Lawmakers are choosing sides for Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Some are rooting for the Carolina Panthers to win the NFL championship in Houston on Sunday. Others are hoping the New England Patriots will get another set of Super Bowl rings.

And some are holding out for the Washington Redskins, hoping that Coach Joe Gibbs will lead the team back to the big show next year.

Delegate Robert B. Bell, Albemarle County Republican and a graduate of the University of Virginia, says he will be pulling for New England because “no Wahoo could ever root for any team called ‘Carolina.’”

Delegates David B. Albo and James H. Dillard II, both Fairfax County Republicans, are in the Carolina camp because of Stephen Davis, the Panthers’ leading rusher, who was released by the Redskins because of the salary cap and the team’s now-defunct “Fun and Gun” pass-heavy offensive strategy.

“Stephen Davis needs to win the big one, thus showing the Redskins’ management that a running game is essential to a passing game,” Mr. Albo says.

Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican, will be cheering on the Patriots.

“I used to live in Boston, which was a pleasant experience,” he says. “I went to Marine boot camp in South Carolina, an unpleasant experience.”

Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, an Arlington County Democrat born in New York, is rooting for the Patriots. “I always feel for the teams from colder climates,” he says.

Even Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, who are expected to face off in the 2005 governor’s race, are on opposite sides for the Super Bowl.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat and faithful Kansas City Chiefs fan, will be rooting for the Patriots. Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, is rooting for the Panthers “because they are the underdogs.”

An intrafamily rivalry is brewing because Mr. Kilgore’s son, Klarke, will be rooting for the Patriots and Mr. Kilgore’s twin brother, Delegate Terry Kilgore, Lee County Republican, will be pulling for the Panthers.

At least one of the General Assembly’s football loyalties is obvious.

Delegate Brian J. Moran, Fairfax County Democrat and a Massachusetts native, is a die-hard Patriots fan.

“I suffered through them for years, and now they are finally good and I’m down here,” Mr. Moran says in his thick New England accent.

Also rooting for the Patriots: Delegate Albert C. Eisenberg, Arlington County Democrat; Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William County Republican; and Delegate J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen, Fairfax County Democrat.

Delegate Robert Tata, Virginia Beach Republican, says he’ll root for the Panthers because “it’s the closest Virginia will ever come to an NFL team, and thus I consider Carolina my home team.”

Also rooting for the Panthers: House Minority Leader Franklin P. Hall, Chesterfield County Democrat; Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Chesterfield County Republican; Sen. John S. Edwards, Craig County Democrat; Sen. John C. Watkins, Amelia County Republican; and Sen. William Bolling, Caroline County Republican.

Most lawmakers will be watching the game at home with their families before heading to next Monday’s session, though some will watch it at their hotels in Richmond.

mMeet the new boss

A rookie who came to the Metro Board in August is now its chairman.

Robert J. Smith, who was appointed to the board in August by Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., took over Thursday from D.C. Council member Jim Graham — who noted that four board members with a combined 89 years of experience have resigned or died in the past 12 months.

Katherine K. Hanley (12 years), John Davey (12 years) and Cleatus Barnett (32 years) all resigned. And then a week ago, one of Metro’s founding fathers, Carlton R. Sickles (33 years) died at 82.

“The rest of us combined don’t have 89 years here,” said Christopher Zimmerman, who represents Arlington County.

With the exception of D.C. member Gladys Mack, with 21 years of experience, each of the other board members has fewer than nine years.

Board members, who passed a resolution Thursday honoring Mr. Sickles, noted he reminded newcomers they should consider the whole system and not just the regions they represent. Some board members said there is more potential now for regional divisiveness.

Mr. Smith recently angered some Virginia leaders with his comments threatening Maryland’s support for the proposed Dulles rail extension because of the subsidy costs Maryland would pay to operate the line. He also riled other Virginia and D.C. board members with cuts to some regional bus routes in an effort to save Maryland money.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who is expected to name a replacement for Mr. Sickles, has been at odds with the Ehrlich administration over transportation projects.

“It’s clear that they are anti-rail. They seem to be on this bus kick,” said David Weaver, Mr. Duncan’s spokesman. “You shouldn’t have a representative on the Metro Board who doesn’t understand the im-portance of both rail and bus.”

mHat in the ring

Former Virginia Delegate Winsome Earle Sears announced to a crowd of more than 100 supporters last Monday that she will challenge U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott in Virginia’s only black-majority congressional district.

Flanked by her husband and three daughters in front of the state Capitol, Mrs. Sears said she was driven by her faith to run for Congress after just one term in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“Throughout my life, my faith has guided me and strengthened me,” she said.

Mrs. Sears, of Norfolk, was the first black Republican woman elected to the General Assembly, ousting another well-known black incumbent, Democrat William P. Robinson. She shocked the political establishment again by retiring from the House after one term.

Mr. Scott is a six-term Democratic incumbent who has represented the 3rd District since Democrats created it in the early 1990s. The district stretches from Richmond to Norfolk, capturing most of the black communities along the way.

Several prominent state Republicans attended Mrs. Sears’ news conference, including Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, state party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin and a number of conservative legislators.

Mr. Kilgore introduced Mrs. Sears by lauding the tenacity it took to knock off Mr. Robinson in 2001.

“The challenge before her was formidable — a 20-year entrenched incumbent,” he said. “That challenge motivated her every day to get out on the campaign trail to let everyone know that she was a candidate they could trust.”

Mrs. Sears likened her fight against Mr. Scott to the biblical story of David and Goliath, then attacked her opponent’s voting record in Congress on issues ranging from same-sex “marriage” to education and national security.

“If our leaders tell us to vote for them because they are black and Democrat, but they allow our schools to fail, I say that’s wrong,” she said.

Mrs. Sears, 39, a former Marine and devout Christian, voted conservatively on most bills in the House of Delegates, particularly those seeking tighter abortion restrictions.

Mrs. Sears drew applause from the crowd when she vowed to fight against recog-nition of same-sex “marriages” and civil unions, saying she believed a “marriage means a union between one man and one woman.”

mFinding funding

Funding for a Chesapeake Bay Foundation educational program that was eliminated in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s budget will be restored, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The foundation, a beneficiary of state aid for more than a decade, did not get the $342,000 it expected to receive for an educational program that sponsors field trips for about 19,000 students and teachers each year.

But foundation President Will Baker said he talked to the governor about the money and Mr. Ehrlich promised to find a way to restore the grant.

Shareese DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Friday that Mr. Ehrlich’s budget aides thought the program could continue with private funds. She said the foundation was able to convince Mr. Ehrlich that the state funds are needed to bring in private money.

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

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