- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Republicans narrowly defeated Democrats last week during the annual basketball match played in Richmond.

Republican lawmakers and staffers — and ringers — beat the Democrats, with Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine and Gov. Mark Warner, by a score of 48-46. The teams had more than a dozen fouls each.

Mr. Warner made the most of the shots he tried for, as did Mount Vernon Delegate Kristen J. Amundson’s aide, Heath Bumgardner.

Mr. Warner’s jersey — No. 65 — was the punch line for many in the bleachers. The attendees, who included lobbyists, government staffers and journalists, noticed the similarity between Mr. Warner’s jersey number and his much-touted tax plan, about which he repeatedly says “65 percent” of Virginians will be paying less.

Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said she’s not sure how the governor got the jersey with that specific number, but that she believes it was given to him by some people at Virginia Commonwealth University, where the game was played.

Delegate S. Chris Jones, Suffolk Republican, was one of the fastest runners on the GOP team, but often ended up falling down on the court.

The next day Mr. Jones announced to the House, “Some of us left skin on the floor,” and characterized the game as “a lot of out-of-shape guys running around and embarrassing themselves.” Mr. Jones’ speech wasn’t the only residual of the game the next day. Delegate Glenn Oder, a Republican from Newport News, came in on crutches, thanks to a basketball injury.

Others playing in the game were Delegates Terry G. Kilgore, Gate City Republican; William H. Fralin Jr., Roanoke Republican; Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican; J. Chapman Petersen, Fairfax Democrat; Chris B. Saxman, Staunton Republican; and state Sens. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Centreville Republican; Emmett W. Hanger Jr., Mount Solon Republican; and D. Nick Rerras, Norfolk Republican.

• Fear of reprisal

Two Frederick County, Md., commissioners whose votes helped thwart construction of a mosque near Frederick have pulled their photographs off the county’s Web site for fear of violent reprisals.

Board President John L. Thompson said he and Commissioner Jan H. Gardner had their photos removed from the Web site amid heavy local media coverage of a federal lawsuit filed by three local Islamic groups challenging the mosque decision.

“It poses a threat. It pretty much draws a bull’s-eye,” Mr. Thompson, a Republican, told the Frederick News-Post.

Their action has been criticized by Islamic residents, fellow Commissioner Mike Cady, a local Unitarian Universalist minister, and Tim Brooks, a Frederick County Republican Central Committee member.

“It struck me as saying all Muslims are terrorists. It was almost an ethnic slur,” Mr. Brooks said.

The two members who pulled their pictures voted with the 3-2 majority on the previous Board of County Commissioners in August 2000 to deny the Islamic Society of Frederick an exemption to suburban sprawl restrictions so it could erect the county’s first mosque. Both commissioners are known for opposing runaway development in the fast-growing county.

• Music soothes

As Virginia legislators raced toward their Saturday deadline for passing a new state budget, music helped break the tension at times.

For weeks, Johnny Cash’s rendition of “The Wreck of the Old 97” was queued on the desktop computers of some legislative staffers.

The ballad about the legendary 1903 train crash near Danville serves as a lyrical reminder of the fiscal train wreck that would arise from failing to adopt a new budget on time.

At Penny Lane Pub’s karaoke night five blocks from the Capitol, a handful of legislators last Monday took the microphone to let off a little steam. Among the performances was a cover of “My Way,” Frank Sinatra’s signature song, by Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican, the House’s chief budget writer.

House Republican Leader H. Morgan Griffith of Salem, joined with several colleagues in singing the Village People’s “YMCA.”

“It was a good crowd of low-tax people there,” said Mr. Griffith.

On Tuesday night, after the House and Senate budget negotiators broke off for the evening, two House negotiators ambled into the Senate Finance Committee’s meeting room as Dick Hickman, a committee staffer, passed some free time picking a guitar.

“He was really good,” said Delegate Johnny S. Joannou, Portsmouth Democrat, who took in Mr. Hickman’s impromptu one-man show along with Delegate M. Kirk Cox, Colonial Heights Republican, both in their first year as House budgeteers.

Mr. Hickman has played for 40 years and knows music’s soothing qualities well.

Folk music is Mr. Hickman’s forte. For Mr. Joannou and Mr. Cox, he sang Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar,” and then sang a song he penned himself honoring astronauts killed in the space shuttle Columbia disaster. The song excerpted part of President Reagan’s eulogy to astronauts killed in the 1986 Challenger explosion, and that made a believer of Mr. Cox, an admirer of Mr. Reagan.

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

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