- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

Maryland Republican leaders turned the Republican National Convention in New York City into a recruiting party for the 2006 election.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he views Maryland’s delegation as a prime pool of potential candidates.

He said the 2006 election will be critical because it will determine whether the gains Republicans made in 2002 were a short-term experiment or the foundation for a political realignment in Maryland.

One of the delegates considering a run for office is Laurie Sears, 37, of Annapolis. Republican leaders have told her that the party would support her strongly if she ran for the House of Delegates in District 30, which is home to House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

Mr. Busch is among the state Democratic legislators whom Republicans have pegged for an aggressive challenge.

• College tours

Vanessa Kerry, daughter of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, visited four Virginia colleges last week in her effort to drum up votes among college students.

Miss Kerry visited Norfolk State University and Virginia Commonwealth University on Wednesday.

On Thursday, she appeared at the University of Virginia and James Madison University.

She was joined Wednesday by her sister, Alexandra Kerry; their stepbrother, Andre Heinz; and Cate Edwards, daughter of vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.

They said at VCU that college students could be part of the Virginia electorate that swings the election to the Democrats in November.

No Democrat in a presidential contest has won in Virginia since President Johnson in 1964.

• No jail time

The son of a Maryland state lawmaker has received a suspended sentence on a gun charge.

George Della, 21, pleaded guilty last week in Baltimore to a misdemeanor charge of transporting a handgun. He was ordered to serve two years’ probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

Mr. Della is the son of Sen. George W. Della Jr., Baltimore Democrat. He was arrested after a traffic stop just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. He was stopped in East Baltimore for speeding, and an officer noticed the handgun in the car.

• City development

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley last week announced plans to redevelop the vacant Uplands Apartments in southwest Baltimore. He called it the city’s most significant new housing development in 50 years — one he says is consistent with the city’s long-term growth strategy.

The city purchased the property earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Demolition of the low-income apartments is expected to start next month, and the Uplands Master Plan calls for the development of 481 homes and 215 apartments.

Under the plan, the New Psalmist Baptist Church will move a few miles from Edmondson Avenue to the Seton Business Park.

The church land will be combined with adjacent Uplands site.

The city will pay New Psalmist more than $16 million.

• Hoyer’s hand

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, has been lending his clout to help Colorado Democrat John Salazar in his bid to replace retiring Republican Rep. Scott McInnis.

Mr. Hoyer, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House, was in Pueblo, Colo., last week to stump for Mr. Salazar.

Mr. Hoyer, who is in his 12th term, said Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District contest is one of the top 10 House races Democrats are concentrating on.

Mr. Salazar is running against Republican Greg Walcher, who spoke Monday at the Republican National Convention in New York City.

• Ethics charge

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens has filed ethics complaints against two former county employees who say the county misspent money collected from developer fees.

The complaint names former county attorney Phillip Scheibe, who represents homeowners seeking more than $30 million in fee refunds, and former Planning Director Robert Dvorak, who has helped the homeowners examine county records for examples of improper spending.

Mr. Scheibe and Mr. Dvorak are leading a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the county.

County ethics laws prohibit former employees from representing anyone on matters in which they had substantial responsibility while with the county and from using confidential information to assist others.

Both Mr. Scheibe and Mr. Dvorak have denied any conflict of interest.

• Show the money

Maryland state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick has reversed her earlier decision to withhold $18 million in federal funds from the Baltimore schools.

Mrs. Grasmick said in July that she was withholding the money after a state audit showed that the city schools had misspent that amount between 2001 and the past school year.

But she announced last week she would release the funds as a show of faith that the disputed spending would be resolved in negotiations involving local, state and federal officials.

The city schools could be required to pay back some or all the money.

City school officials say that not all the money was misspent, and they say the state approved some of the spending plans.

• Counting names

Virginia elections officials won’t know until Tuesday whether independent Ralph Nader has qualified for the November ballot.

Some local registrars Friday were still verifying more than 10,000 signatures on petitions Mr. Nader’s campaign submitted to the State Board of Elections on Aug. 20, board secretary Jean Jensen said.

On the advice of the state Attorney General’s Office, Miss Jensen initially declined to accept Mr. Nader’s petitions because they weren’t grouped according to the state’s 11 congressional districts, as the board’s written guidelines dictate.

Three days later, Republican Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore changed his position and ordered Miss Jensen to accept the petitions because the board never had adopted the requirement.

With Democrats nationally trying to bar Mr. Nader from the ballot for fear he will dilute the vote for presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, and Republicans aiding Mr. Nader for the same reason, Mr. Kilgore’s reversal evoked claims of partisan politics.

Both Miss Jensen, a former executive director of the state Democratic Party, and Mr. Kilgore, chairman of President Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign in Virginia, reject any suggestion that partisan motives played a role in their actions.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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