- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Maryland state Republican Party is celebrating President Bush’s victory and urging its members to continue building momentum for local elections in 2006.

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele told a crowd of 250 activists Saturday that the party should focus on the upcoming elections, when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and state lawmakers are up for re-election. Party loyalists should help oust those in the General Assembly who “resist” the governor, Mr. Steele said.

“Those that resist must be dismissed,” Mr. Steele said at the state GOP fall convention, held at the Sheraton Barcelo Annapolis. “I’m no Johnnie Cochran, but that seems to me to be a very important point to keep in our minds as we move forward during the next two years.”

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won Maryland’s vote for president, but Steele pointed to Bush’s success compared to the previous election.

• Aiming higher

Longtime Prince William County Attorney Sharon E. Pandak plans to seek her party’s nomination for Virginia attorney general next year in the June primary election. Mrs. Pandak, who recently resigned after holding her post 15 years, will formally announce her candidacy in the coming month.

“I bring experience and knowledge of local government and its relationship to state government that would be valuable in that office,” said Mrs. Pandak, 51.

She grew up in Staunton and now lives in Woodbridge.

She resigned from the appointed, nonpartisan position so she could run for attorney general.

Four people besides Mrs. Pandak have expressed interest in the position.

Democrats also running for the nomination are state Sen. Robert Creigh Deeds of Charlottesville and Sen. John S. Edwards of Roanoke.

Delegate Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach and Richmond lawyer Steve Baril are running for the Republican nomination.

• Committee changes

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. says it is a “strong possibility” that he will change the membership of the committee that would hear a medical malpractice reform bill, replacing a senator who favors limits on lawsuit awards with a lawyer who works for one of the nation’s most prominent trial attorneys.

State Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, told the Baltimore Sun that Mr. Miller told him Wednesday that he would be replaced on the Judicial Proceedings Committee by Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a lawyer who works in the firm of Peter G. Angelos.

Mr. Miller confirmed that the switch is a “strong possibility” but said it is the result of committee shifts caused by the death of state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman of Howard County.

He said moving Mr. Brochin to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee was the idea of that committee’s chairwoman and “has nothing to do with tort reform whatsoever.”

Mr. Brochin voted against a bill last year that would have limited jury awards. But six weeks ago, he called Mr. Miller’s office to say he had changed his mind and would support a comprehensive set of reforms to prevent large increases in malpractice insurance rates, including limits on jury awards.

Mr. Miller, himself a lawyer, has been the chief holdout against efforts by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch to enact such limits.

Early voting

“Vote early and often” is an old joke, but the D.C. delegate thinks residents should at least have the chance to do half of that.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, is urging city officials to look into ways of bringing early voting to Washington. In a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, Mrs. Norton says that while visiting other cities campaigning for this year’s ticket, she saw how well the process works.

Mrs. Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, calls early voting convenient both for voters and election officials, and a great way to cut waiting time at the polls on Election Day.

• Ad flap

The Ehrlich administration defended the governor’s prominent role in an advertising campaign touting the pleasures of Maryland by showing lawmakers a montage of similar commercials from other states featuring governors of both parties.

The presentation included a four-year-old Maryland spot featuring then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Mr. Ehrlich is not in the ads to promote himself, but because he is the most effective, best-known spokesman for the state, said communications director Paul Schurick during a hearing before the Health and Government Operations Committee.

Plus, the governor works for free.

“He does have the recognition, he does have the credibility, he does have the popularity to be the most effective spokesman for Maryland,” Mr. Schurick told the committee.

In recent months, Mr. Ehrlich has appeared in a host of radio and television ads pitching energy-efficient homes, the Maryland Million horse race and the Motor Vehicle Administration.

He also stars in a series of ads promoting Maryland tourism where he offers to hang a ceiling fan or trim the hedges so families can get out and enjoy the sights.

Some lawmakers — mostly Democrats — complain that the Republican governor is getting too much face time at public expense.

• Left behind?

Should Virginia withdraw from the federal No Child Left Behind program?

A legislative committee is pondering that question after conducting a public hearing on the federal school accountability law last week.

Delegate Albert C. Pollard Jr., Lancaster Democrat, submitted a bill in the last legislative session to withdraw from No Child Left Behind, which he considers misguided and overly burdensome.

Mr. Pollard said he is working with Delegate James H. Dillard, Fairfax Republican, on a substitute bill that would authorize Virginia to withdraw only under certain conditions.

Dropping out of the program would cost Virginia schools about $280 million per year in federal funds.

That wouldn’t be the first time Virginia has rebelled against the federal education bureaucracy.

In the mid-‘90s, Gov. George Allen refused to accept federal funds under another program called Goals 2000. He said the money came with too many strings attached.

The state eventually accepted the money after gaining federal assurances that Virginia could spend the funds any way it wanted. The money was spent on technology.

• Just the facts

Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon says council members will be more diligent about confirming the latest nominee for police commissioner than they were about the last one.

Mrs. Dixon says she has begun listing new requirements for information that will have to be met by the mayor’s office before the council will confirm any mayoral appointees — including acting police Commissioner Leonard Hamm.

Commissioner Hamm’s predecessor, Kevin Clark, was easily confirmed last year. Mr. Clark was fired last week after a report about a domestic abuse investigation mentioned an abuse investigation that idled Mr. Clark during his last job.

Council member Kenneth Harris says the council needs to stop acting as a “rubber stamp.”

• Walking the talk

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner last week launched the Healthy Virginians program with an exercise routine he is promoting among state workers: a walk.

Mr. Warner led a one-mile lunch-hour walk for state workers from the Capitol to a health fair in historic Shockoe Bottom.

The Healthy Virginians initiative, among other recommendations, encourages state employees to use a daily 15-minute break to walk or exercise. The program is intended to bring down health care costs by reducing obesity, hypertension and other preventable diseases.

As many as 58 percent of all Virginians are overweight or obese, 23 percent do not exercise regularly, and 25 percent smoke or use other tobacco products, the Democrat said, citing various health studies.

“Every day in Virginia, lives can be extended and their quality improved by following a few simple rules for a healthier lifestyle,” he said.

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

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