- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2005

Virginia lawmakers have earmarked $20 million to help spruce up or replace aging highway stops before Jamestown’s 400th anniversary brings crowds of tourists to the state.

“We had to do something,” said Sen. Charles R. Hawkins, Pittsylvania Republican and a member of the Senate Finance Committee. “It just got to the point of being a disgrace. If you plan to invite people to your home, you have to give them a place to stop and rest.”

For more than five years, people have complained about the condition of many of Virginia’s 41 rest areas and welcome centers. Residents and tourists have bombarded state officials with letters and e-mails, using words like “filthy,” “abysmal” and “cesspool” to describe the aging facilities, which are sometimes dirty and malodorous.

Lawmakers and legislative staff say the Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican, was instrumental in securing funding to help renovate, repair and replace highway stops. In November, the Associated Press detailed the conditions after obtaining copies of dozens of complaints that tourists, truckers and residents sent to state officials.

But $20 million won’t go too far, so, if approved, the Virginia Department of Transportation likely will direct the funds to rest stops along Interstates 64 and 95 that are bound to attract more tourists headed to Jamestown events in 2006 and 2007.

“I think there’s a pecking order,” said Delegate Leo C. Wardrup Jr., Virginia Beach Republican and the lead House budget negotiator on transportation matters.

• Mayor’s spokesman

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams dove into the ranks of the Washington press corps to find his man to handle his relations with the media.

Vincent Morris, 37, has been working in the Washington bureau of the New York Post. Before that he was a reporter for The Washington Times and the Journal Newspapers in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Morris lives in Ward 6 with his wife and two daughters. He will earn $121,000 a year in his post as director of communications for the mayor.

He takes over the job left vacant when Tony Bullock left the administration last year. Sharon Gang has been working as interim communications director since then.

• Turnout 7 percent

Fewer than 7 percent of registered voters in Salisbury, Md., turned out in the snow and rain Tuesday to vote in a primary election, according to election officials.

They selected incumbent Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman and Donald Long to face off in next month’s general election, Wicomico County Board of Elections Director Judy Ritter said.

Mrs. Tilghman received 461 votes (44 percent), and Mr. Long got 368 votes (35 percent). Michael Della Penna (212 votes, 20 percent) was eliminated in the primary election.

In April, voters also will decide whether to eliminate primary elections. Some argue that it wastes resources.

• Young Democrats

Democratic support may be hard to find in Republican-dominated Tidewater Virginia, but the Oscar Smith High School Young Democrats have scored a coup for the Jefferson-Jackson dinner March 18.

Gov. Mark Warner has accepted the group’s invitation to speak at an event that will draw many other local elected officials — both Democrats and Republicans.

“Gov. Warner is happy whenever he learns of young people getting engaged in civic activities and saw this as a great opportunity to offer some support and encouragement,” said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the governor.

Former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, also has been invited, but his office has not yet responded.

About 300 people are expected to attend the dinner in Chesapeake, which will even feature an ice sculpture of a donkey.

Holly Rowland, a sophomore and president of the club, said it wasn’t easy to establish the 15-member Democratic club in the heart of Republican territory.

“A lot of kids, especially if they’re Republicans, they’ve been trying to trash us,” she said. “And we have other kids who think it’s pretty cool, but don’t want to join themselves.”

The club may be ready to grow since it has found an adult sponsor in Oscar Smith government teacher and debate coach Beth Craig.

“I think that politicians are reaching out, especially when you have a blue governor coming to a red city reaching out to the kids,” she said. “Hopefully, it will make inroads.”

• Lawyers aplenty

Sixteen Frederick County, Md., lawyers have applied for consideration as Frederick County’s newest district court judge.

Five work as prosecutors with either the Frederick State’s Attorney’s Office or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore. Two work for the county public defender’s office; two are former city of Frederick employees; and one is the county’s chief legal adviser.

Candidates will be interviewed April 14 by the 13-member Judicial Nominating Commission.

The names of those found most qualified — at least three — will be sent to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who will appoint the candidate to a 10-year term. District judges are paid more than $112,000 per year.

The opening is created with the upcoming mandatory retirement of Judge Frederick Bower, who turns 70 this month.

• Trailblazer honored

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week reintroduced a bill to name the annex of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Building, which houses the U.S. District Court and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, for Senior Judge William B. Bryant, a former chief judge of the District Court, who twice broke the color barrier, becoming the first black federal chief judge here and the first black assistant U.S. attorney.

Judge Bryant, 93, is a longtime D.C. resident and graduate of the D.C. public schools whose legal career was established in a segregated District in the 1940s and 1950s before he was named a federal judge.

Mrs. Norton got the annex-naming bill through her committee with passage by the House last year, but it was held in the Senate.

• Running in Virginia

Virginia state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett of Russell County last week announced his Democratic candidacy for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Puckett, from Southwest Virginia, said one of the major themes of his campaign will be home health care and the high cost of prescription drugs.

On his Web site, Mr. Puckett said that from where he lives in Virginia, he often has to drive seven hours to get to meetings, so roads will be another important issue in the campaign.

Mr. Puckett is one of at least four Democrats and four Republicans running for lieutenant governor.

• Who’s on the ballot?

One of the names appearing on tomorrow’s primary election ballot for Hagerstown, Md., is Charlie Baker.

But the Republican mayoral candidate’s given name is Roger Dean Weber.

Mr. Weber said he began using the name Charlie Baker when he began using the Internet in the early 1980s.

Local election officials said Mr. Weber/Baker has met requirements both as a voter and as a candidate.

Mr. Weber/Baker said he was arrested in the late 1960s and served time in a federal prison after being caught carrying marijuana into the country.

According to Michigan prison records, a Roger Dean Weber with the same date of birth as Charlie Baker was convicted in 1978 of assault with a deadly weapon.

Mr. Weber/Baker said he doesn’t recall having been in prison in Michigan.

• This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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