- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

Virginia Delegate J. Chapman Petersen, a candidate for lieutenant governor, is upset that he was disinvited to speak at a naturalization ceremony.

The Fairfax Democrat had been scheduled to speak Thursday at George Mason Law School. Late Wednesday, however, he was told he was “no longer invited,” his campaign said.

“This ceremony is close to my heart,” said Mr. Petersen, whose wife and in-laws are naturalized citizens from South Korea. “I planned to use my remarks to emphasize, as an elected state official, my great respect and appreciation for those new Virginians who chose to become Americans.

“For Republican officials to cancel my appearance is politics at its worst.”

Phyllis Howard, district director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the Augusta Free Press that politics did not factor in the decision to disinvite Mr. Petersen.

She told the online newspaper it was “inappropriate in this highly charged election season” to allow the possibility of using the ceremony as a political platform. “It wouldn’t have mattered if he was a Democrat or Republican,” she said.

Mr. Petersen said he had no intention of turning his talk into a political event.

Getting ‘feisty’

The District’s bow-tied mayor is stepping up the political rhetoric, though he still hasn’t decided whether he will run for a third term.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams says he has been more “feisty” lately because he has made a personal decision to stand up for himself. He says he has done a better job as mayor than for what he has gotten credit.

Mr. Williams said Friday on WAMU-FM (88.5): “I’ve just decided if I don’t speak up for myself, no one else is.”

• Mr. Senator?

Rep. Chris Van Hollen said Friday he is taking “a very active look” at running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes.

Speaking on WTOP Radio, Mr. Van Hollen said he has formed an exploratory committee and will talk to people throughout Maryland but believes “you look before you leap.”

He said he doesn’t have a deadline for making a decision on the 2006 race.

Mr. Van Hollen, a Democrat, was first elected to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in 2002 and re-elected in November.

• Stopping the music

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley has announced that he will put down the guitar.

After a last round of St. Patrick’s Day shows, the Baltimore mayor said he will leave the Celtic rock band he fronts, O’Malley’s March.

In a letter to fans posted on the band’s Web site on Tuesday, Mr. O’Malley, a likely Democratic candidate for governor in the 2006 election, wrote that he wants to concentrate on his work.

His namesake band dates back to 1988 and features a mix of modern and traditional Celtic instruments, from electric violin and guitar to highland bagpipes and bodhran, a hand-held drum. Mr. O’Malley sings, writes songs and plays guitar, tin whistle and bodhran.

• Teaching gig

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft will teach at Regent University for two weeks a semester for the next five years, said the Christian school’s law dean.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for our students,” Dean Jeffrey A. Brauch said Thursday. “They’ll study national security law from the man who commanded the justice system’s response to 9/11.”

Mr. Ashcroft, 62, left office last month. He will come to Regent for a week next month, then begin his two-week commitment in the summer at the university’s program in Strasbourg, France.

The Virginia Beach university was founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. Mr. Ashcroft is a member of the Assemblies of God denomination.

• Hat crime?

A worker’s refusal to remove his hat during a Frederick County Commissioners’ meeting made one board member so angry he moved to have the man be fired.

The motion failed, but Commissioner Michael L. Cady prevailed in getting $35,000 — the approximate value of the groundskeeper’s wages and benefits — removed from the Department of Parks and Recreation budget.

“I want that position eliminated, and with it, he goes,” Mr. Cady said Friday, a day after he confronted Westley B. Etters at a public meeting.

Department director Paul Dial said the matter was under review and declined to comment further.

Mr. Etters, who is in his late 20s, according to the LexisNexis information service, was hired recently for the full-time job. He was at the morning meeting to be introduced to the commissioners, a custom with new employees.

Mr. Cady, 61, said he noticed during the Pledge of Allegiance that Mr. Etters was wearing a knit stocking cap and “basically going through the motions rather than showing the proper respect to the flag.”

Mr. Cady, an Olympic weightlifting coach and former Marine, said he was irritated by Mr. Etters’ mumbling, halfhearted effort. And when Mr. Etters later stood and addressed the board after his introduction, the Republican commissioner said he was surprised to learn that he had served in the Air Force.

“I asked if the Air Force still taught that you take your cover off indoors,” Mr. Cady said.

“In the Air Force, I did,” Mr. Etters replied, without removing his hat.

Mr. Etters then pointed out that Commissioner Jan H. Gardner also was wearing a hat, a green-and-yellow number that Mr. Cady had given her as a St. Patrick’s Day gag. Mr. Cady said Mrs. Gardner hadn’t worn the hat during the Pledge.

“You have a commissioner sitting next to you with a hat,” Mr. Etters said. “Does she have special privileges?”

Mrs. Gardner, a Democrat, removed her hat, and Mr. Cady let loose his temper.

“That’s when I lost it, and I asked for his immediate dismissal for insubordination and disrespect,” he said.

The motion failed on a 3-2 vote. Mr. Cady then moved to have the money removed from the parks department’s budget and placed in a contingency fund. That motion passed, with board President John L. Thompson Jr., switching sides.

Mr. Thompson declined to comment on the matter Friday, saying it was a personnel issue.

• Leaving Richmond

One of the Virginia General Assembly’s longest-serving members won’t run for re-election this fall.

Delegate Paul Councill Jr., Southampton County Democrat, has served in the House of Delegates since 1974. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he has mixed emotions, but calls leaving the House “probably the best thing to do.”

Mr. Councill, who is 84, served as chairman of the House Education Committee when Democrats controlled the assembly. He sits on the House Appropriations and Rules committees.

His impending departure brings to nine the number of delegates who will not seek another term. Voters will decide all 100 House seats in November, as well as the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

• Joining the crowd

Virginia state Sen. William T. Bolling formally opened his race for lieutenant governor last week — joining a crowded field for the Republican primary in June.

Mr. Bolling sought to position himself to the right of the other four Republican hopefuls. He advocates a freeze on real estate tax assessments for Virginians 65 or older and completing the car tax cut. He said the commonwealth could spend $1 billion on roads without new taxes.

He also supports a ban on homosexual “marriage” and ending social services for illegal aliens.

The real estate tax freeze is a new twist. He provided no cost figures or operational details during one of several campaign kickoff speeches around the state.

• Write-in wants in

Former Hagerstown, Md., Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II is waging a write-in campaign for his old job.

His announcement Thursday creates a three-way race along with Richard F. Trump — the local magazine publisher who beat Mr. Bruchey by 70 votes in the March 8 Republican primary — and incumbent Democrat William M. Breichner. The general election is May 17.

Mr. Bruchey said he decided to run after hearing from people unhappy with both major candidates.

Richard Hugg, chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee, said Mr. Bruchey’s candidacy would be a distraction.

Mr. Bruchey, a car and truck salesman, served one four-year term before losing in 2001.

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

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