- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2005

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner heard from a lot of well-wishers after he broke two bones in his hand in a spill from his bike last month.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, received lots of flowers, and his office in Richmond boasted a banner signed by children encouraging him to get well soon.

There were a lot of “nice little cards” from people who said the governor was in their prayers, Mr. Warner told The Washing-ton Times, but some sent more than cards: “One lady sent me $50,” the governor said, describ-ing her actions as “very cute.”

“She didn’t want to send me flowers,” he said, noting that he will return the money.

He even received some gag gifts highlighting his awkward fall. “I also got a lot of sets of training wheels from my friends,” he said.



Proudly on display in his office is the helmet he was wearing during the tumble, complete with a dent that proves “safety first.”

• A father’s influence

D.C. Council member Marion Barry says his son, Marion Christopher Barry, is not working with mayoral contenders.

“Chris has not decided to do anything with anybody until I decide. It is as simple as that,” Mr. Barry said last week. “He understands that; he’s political.”

Michael Brown, son of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, has said Mr. Barry’s 24-year-old son has agreed to work in his campaign, if he announces a run for mayor.

Mr. Barry, a Democrat and former mayor, has not ruled out a run for mayor himself and knows his son’s endorsement of another campaign could complicate his bid.

Democratic council members Adrian M. Fenty of Ward 4 and Vincent B. Orange Sr. of Ward 5 have said they are running for mayor. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has not said whether he will seek a third term.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, is among the likely candidates but has said she will not make an announcement until the end of the summer.

• Talking the talk

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean last week told party leaders in the District that President Bush should do more to secure the public transit system.

“The president doesn’t understand that you have to do something about the mass-transit system,” he said.

Mr. Dean, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, made his remarks at a grass-roots fundraiser for the D.C. Democratic State Committee as part of his vow to rebuild the party’s local chapters.

• No comment

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley may have had a personal reason not to get involved in a controversy over Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s holding a fundraiser at a club with no black members.

Some black leaders and Democrats have criticized Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, for holding the fundraiser at the Elkridge Club, the same club where Mr. O’Malley’s brother and adviser, Peter, held his wedding reception.

The mayor rebuffed a call last week from Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, his likely rival in the Democratic primary for governor, to demand that Mr. Ehrlich apologize.

Mr. O’Malley called it a “desperate” bid for press attention.

Peter O’Malley says his wife and her mother picked the location, and it never occurred to them to ask whether the club had black members. He said no one in their families is a member of the club, but he would not say what member sponsored them.

• House is home

U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, citing the effect a statewide race would have on “my still young family,” said last Monday that he will run for another term in the U.S. House of Representa-tives instead of seeking the U.S. Senate seat that will become vacant with the retirement of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat.

Mr. Van Hollen, who is chairman of the national Democratic Party’s recruitment effort for candidates for the House, also said he wants to continue to work for the election of a Democratic majority in the House next year.

“This has been one of the most difficult political decisions I have made,” he said in a letter to supporters. “It was a difficult decision because I believe we could have waged an energetic and ultimately successful campaign, based on a positive agenda for the future.”

He said he decided he “could not ask my wife, Katherine, and our three children to endure the many stresses and sacrifices that such a campaign would involve.” The Van Hollens have three children ages 9 to 15.

• Supreme reaction

The Republican candidates for Virginia’s statewide office have proposed amending three laws and the state constitution to bar government from seizing private property primarily for economic development that would generate more tax revenue.

The ticket announced the proposals last week in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that municipalities can take private property for private development that meets the public purpose of creating jobs and revenue.

“We just can’t allow that decision to stand,” state Sen. Bill Bolling, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, said in a conference call with reporters. He said the ruling “is a direct threat to the important principle of private property rights.”

Also participating in the call were attorney general candidate Bob McDonnell and U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake. Gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore was not on the call, but he endorsed the legislative proposals in a press release.

Under the power of eminent domain, government has authority to take property for public purposes, including roads, schools and parks. Property owners must be paid fair market value.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in a case out of Connecticut expands that power for the first time to allow the government to transfer property from one private owner to another for the purpose of development.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine said earlier this month that he would support legislation strictly limiting the definition of “public use” to justify condemnation

• Nielson rating: 0

The first Virginia gubernatrial debate was held Saturday, and the state’s Democrats planned to hold debate-watching parties with blank television screens.

The Democratic Party of Virginia set up the “watch” parties across the state to highlight the fact that no televised debates are scheduled so far for the gubernatorial candidates.

The Virginia Bar Association hosted thedebate Saturday, which traditionally is not televised. However, a few televised debates were canceled when Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore refused to attend if independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. was there.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, is lobbying a host of organizations to be included in debates between Mr. Kilgore, a former attorney general, and the Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

“Since Virginians can’t watch the debate on July 16, we are asking Democrats around the Commonwealth to hold debate-watching parties to show that Virginians deserve leaders who have the courage to stand in front of the people and debate, not hide behind professional political handlers,” the Democratic Party of Virginia wrote on its Web site.

• Kilgore pulls ahead

A new poll shows Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, is leading Democratic candidate Timothy M. Kaine

Mr. Kilgore, a former attorney general, had 47 percent of the vote, though Mr. Kaine, the lieutenant governor, had 41 percent in the poll, released Thursday by Rasmussen Reports.

The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted July 12 and had a 4.5 percent margin of error.

H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republian state senator from Winchester, is running as an independent. Four percent of the poll’s respondents said they will vote for a candidate other than Mr. Kaine or Mr. Kilgore.

The poll had Mr. Kilgore ahead, 46 percent to 40 percent. In April, Mr. Kilgore had an eight-point lead.

It also showed that Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, is viewed favorably by 63 percent of those surveyed. Thirty-one percent had an unfavorable view of the governor, who is barred by law from seeking a second term.

• Chairman to jail

A county board cairman in Virginia was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for his role in a scheme in which contractors bribed officials with cash and even hunting dogs to win flood cleanup contracts.

Stuart Ray Blankenship was one of 13 defendants sentenced in Abingdon for public corruption and racketeering as part of the federal probe dubbed Operation Coon Dog. Three other defendants will be sentenced later.

The bribery scheme followed the May 2002 floods in Buchanan County that caused nearly $30 million damage to remote coal communities in the southwestern corner of the state. Prosecutors said some county officials accepted $545,000 in cash bribes and gifts from contractors and rewarded them with $7.6 million in contracts to clean up the flood-ravaged county.

Bribes included $350,000 in cash and $195,000 worth of assorted gifts, such as the coon dogs, trucks, clothes, all-terrain vehicles and tickets to major sporting events.

Others involved received sentences ranging from one year and a day to seven years and three months.

• Political scuffle

The president of the historic preservation commission in Cambridge, Md., has filed second-degree assault charges against a former City Council member. The charges stem from a scuffle outside City Hall last Monday night.

Armond Hayward II filed the charges against Lee Weldon on Thursday, three days after Mr. Weldon filed identical charges against Mr. Hayward.

According to charging documents, Mr. Weldon confronted Mr. Hayward after a City Council meeting, demanding to talk to him, but Mr. Hayward ignored Mr. Weldon. A physical confronta-tion began, and Mr. Weldon threw Mr. Hayward to the ground. When Mr. Hayward got up, he punched Mr. Weldon in the face.

In his statement to police, Mr. Hayward said he didn’t know what Mr. Weldon might do and felt threatened by him.

Mr. Weldon had been appointed to Mr. Hayward’s commission at the City Council meeting before the fight. He said he wanted to talk to Mr. Hayward about the appointment because the two had had “disagreements” in the past.

In his charging documents, Mr. Weldon paints Mr. Hayward as the aggressor.

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

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