- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2005

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele says he is ready for opponents of his U.S. Senate run who attack him for supporting Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s fundraiser at the then-all-white Elkridge Club in Baltimore.

“If they want to try to make something out of Elkridge — good luck,” said Mr. Steele, who has been the target of racially tinged attacks condoned by some Democrats because he is a black conservative Republican.

“I know firsthand discrimination,” he said. “I know firsthand racism. I’ve never let that be a bar to my opportunities. … It’s never stopped me from reaching back and bringing as many of the young African-Americans as I can with me to help them find success.”

Mr. Steele defended Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, when reports emerged that the governor had held a fundraiser at the exclusive club in July. The event was widely criticized, especially by Democrats.

However, Democrats also have used the 127-year-old club, including Peter O’Malley — brother of and adviser to Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic front-runner in the governor’s race.

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat, and Alan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, have not ruled out referring to the Elkridge Club in their Senate campaigns.

Mr. Steele said his initial comments to reporters about the fundraiser may have been flippant, but he was more concerned with his work leading the governor’s commission on education at that time.

“Don’t talk to me about insensitivity to this issue,” he said. “My focus was beyond that.

“My focus was to the child who is in the classroom right now who really doesn’t need an Elkridge because they can start their own country club, because they have been empowered — through their education, through their experience and through the economic development that we want to put in place — to go out and buy their own club and invite the world to come.”

Good luck

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s good-luck ritual is eating hot dogs at Skeeter’s in Wytheville, but Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine is all about baseball.

Mr. Kaine and Mr. Warner, both Democrats, spent the weekend before the election campaigning together in Southwest Virginia.

Mr. Warner insisted the candidate and the reporters following them eat at Skeeter’s, which serves chili-and-mustard dogs.

Mr. Kaine, who won last Tuesday’s election, made a detour after the lunch stop to a park.

His destination was the leftover home plate from the park where the Minnesota Twins’ farm team once played.

Mr. Kaine explained that in the early 1960s, hitter Tony Oliva sent a home run flying from that spot. The ball hit a school bell, ringing it.

“I always stand on it; it’s my good luck charm,” he said.

Down to business

Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine will hold five town-hall meetings in late November and in December to discuss his transportation proposals. The forums will be in Manassas, Roanoke, Bristol, Newport News and eastern Henrico County.

The first will be Thursday.

He appointed former Delegate Glenn R. Croshaw of Virginia Beach and outgoing Richmond Delegate Viola O. Baskerville, both Democrats, and his campaign chairman, D.C. lawyer Larry Roberts, to head his transition team.

He appointed two of his largest donors, clothing retailer Stuart C. Siegel of Richmond and Sheila Johnson of Middleburg, co-founder of the BET cable network, to head his inaugural committee.

Endorsed

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson and several members of the county’s legislative delegation have thrown their support behind Kweisi Mfume’s quest for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Mr. Mfume, a former congressman and former head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, are the leading candidates for the nomination for the seat that will become vacant with the retirement of Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

Mr. Cardin has been endorsed by several Democratic elected officials.

But the endorsements from the black Prince George’s officials were the first for Mr. Mfume, the only black in the Democratic race.

Also joining in the endorsement were state Sens. Nathaniel Exum and Gloria Lawlah and Delegates Carolyn J.B. Howard, Obie Patterson, Dereck Davis, Darryl A. Kelley, Veronica Turner, Rosetta C. Parker and Marvin E. Holmes Jr., all black Democrats from Prince George’s County.

With Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele seemingly assured of the Republican nomination, a primary victory by Mr. Mfume would put two black candidates on the ballot next November.

Pivotal moment

A midsummer poll that showed Democrat Timothy M. Kaine pulling slightly ahead of Republican Jerry W. Kilgore for the first time was the turning point in Virginia’s gubernatorial election.

That’s according to top officials of both campaigns.

Kaine campaign chairman Larry Roberts said the Democrat’s come-from-behind victory might never have materialized if the July 24 Mason-Dixon poll had shown Mr. Kaine trailing.

Mr. Kilgore’s campaign manager, Ken Hutcheson, agreed — calling the two percentage-point deficit in the July poll a momentum killer.

The comments came at an election postmortem held by the University of Virginia Center for Politics last week.

Mr. Kaine targeted Virginia’s growing and generally conservative suburbs.

Surprising wins in numerous Republican strongholds gave Mr. Kaine a comfortable win in a race that late public opinion polls showed was deadlocked.

But Mr. Roberts says the whole game plan might have collapsed had the July poll not shown that Mr. Kaine had erased Mr. Kilgore’s double-digit lead.

Just the facts

Some facts and figures from the 2005 Virginia election:

• Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine is the first Roman Catholic ever elected as a governor or a U.S. senator in Virginia.

• Mr. Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, will return to a childhood home. She lived in the Executive Mansion from 1970 to ‘74 while her father, Linwood Holton, was governor.

• Since 1969, nobody has been elected governor without winning the state’s largest locality, Fairfax County, where Mr. Kaine took 60 percent.

Only one other locality matches Fairfax County’s 10-for-10 accuracy as a bellwether in the past 10 gubernatorial elections: Fairfax City.

• Virginia’s conservative, fast-growing suburbs accounted for two-thirds of the votes cast Tuesday. Mr. Kaine won 50.2 percent of the suburban vote; Mr. Kilgore, 47.4 percent.

• In the cities (15 percent of the vote), Mr. Kaine won 65.4 percent; Mr. Kilgore, 32.4 percent.

• Total money raised and spent in this governor’s race is estimated to be about $45 million. The previous record: $32 million in 2001.

Schaefer challenger

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer’s cozy relationship with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has ticked off many Maryland Democrats.

State Delegate Peter Franchot plans to test just how deep that discontent runs with Democratic voters.

Mr. Franchot said Friday that he will challenge the comptroller in next year’s Democratic primary.

Mr. Franchot said he has watched “as Gov. Bob Ehrlich has taken our state in the wrong direction.”

“Through it all, his biggest supporter has not been a member of his own Cabinet or even the lieutenant governor. It’s not been a member of the Republican Party leadership or a Republican legislator. His biggest supporter has been William Donald Schaefer.”

Spokesman Mike Golden said Mr. Schaefer “has said in the past that the delegate has every right to run for the office.”

“He wishes he wouldn’t, and he hopes that he loses,” Mr. Golden said.

Mr. Franchot, 57, has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1987.

• S.A. Miller and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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