- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine last week announced the first major appointment of what will be his administration’s inner circle.

Bill Leighty, a respected state government veteran credited for much of Gov. Mark Warner’s administrative efficiency, will stay in his role as chief of staff for Mr. Kaine, a Democrat.

The governor-elect also announced he is appointing another senior Warner adviser, Wayne Turnage, as his deputy chief of staff.

Mr. Leighty consistently has been credited with improving operational efficiency.

He served as director of the Virginia Retirement System for seven years under former Gov. George Allen and James S. Gilmore III, both Republicans.

Mr. Leighty was put in charge of the governor’s office staff in 2002, when Mr. Warner, a Democrat, took office.

Mr. Leighty had spoken privately of plans to retire after Mr. Warner’s term comes to and end in January.

Mr. Turnage is known for his expertise in public health care and medical services.

In addition to serving Mr. Warner as a special projects adviser, Mr. Turnage also directs policy and research and the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Backing Cropp

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp is getting some help in her campaign for mayor from one of her council colleagues, the Cropp campaign announced last week.

Council member Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, has endorsed Mrs. Cropp to replace outgoing Mayor Anthony A. Williams next year. Mr. Brown will serve as co-chairman of Mrs. Cropp’s campaign committee.

Mr. Brown said he was excited about Mrs. Cropp’s vision for the city.

“Linda Cropp is the leader we need to make sure everyone benefits from the progress we have made,” he said. “I know she shares my priorities to fix the schools and provide opportunities for local, small businesses to participate in the city’s economic growth.”

Mr. Brown, who defeated longtime council incumbent Harold Brazil in last year’s Democratic primary, was expected to focus on youth outreach for Mrs. Cropp’s campaign.

Mrs. Cropp, a Democrat, welcomed the support.

Two other D.C. Council members also are running for the Democratic nomination — Adrian M. Fenty of Ward 4 and Vincent B. Orange Sr. of Ward 5. Former Verizon executive Marie Johns and lobbyist Michael Brown also have joined the race.

The Democratic primary will be held Sept. 12.

Out of state

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat and potential presidential contender for 2008, shared a spirited luncheon with New Hampshire’s top Democrats on Friday, contributing some good laughs and a little politics.

When someone’s cell phone interrupted the event, the co-founder of Nextel said he didn’t mind.

“Where you hear an obnoxious sound, I hear ‘ka-ching, ka-ching,’” Mr. Warner said in what became a running joke over the course of the luncheon in Manchester, N.H.

Mr. Warner laid out a quick biography during his first visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state. He was born in Indiana and his family moved several times as he was growing up.

He graduated from George Washington University and Harvard Law School and, after some early failures, hit it big in the upstart telecommunications industry by investing in car phones.

A Democrat in a predominantly Republican state, he touted his accomplishments as governor in gaining bipartisan support for his goals. He avoided criticizing Republicans, saying only that President Bush has missed opportunities to tackle major issues facing the country.

Mr. Warner joked that when he first learned he was inheriting a $6 billion budget shortfall, he wondered if it was too late to request a recount.

Mr. Warner said the shortfall forced him to make cuts and to restructure state government. He also pushed through a $1.4 billion budget-balancing tax increase in 2004 that injected new state support for public education, social services and public safety.

He said he got approval for the tax increase by taking the problem to the public, laying out the need to secure the state’s finances and protect public services.

“You know in this country, a little truth can go a long way,” he said. “People are so tired of spin.”

New top doc

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a pediatrician and an aide to U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, was introduced last week as Baltimore’s new health commissioner, saying he hoped to build on the legacy of his popular predecessor, Dr. Peter Beilenson.

Dr. Sharfstein, 36, will take over from acting Commissioner Francine Childs on Dec. 12, although he must be confirmed by the City Council.

Mayor Martin O’Malley and Council President Sheila Dixon, both Democrats, said they were confident he would be confirmed.

Dr. Sharfstein has worked for Mr. Waxman for the past four years on the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee, leading investigations on medical and public health issues, including public health emergency preparedness, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.

Dr. Beilenson resigned as health commissioner this summer after nearly 13 years on the job to run for Congress in Maryland’s 3rd District.

Who’s the boss?

Virginia’s next attorney general began moving into his transition office in Richmond on Thursday. Whether it’s Republican Robert F. McDonnell or Democrat R. Creigh Deeds won’t be known until next month.

Both men are preparing to take office after a Nov. 8 election that has Mr. McDonnell leading by 341 votes out of nearly 2 million cast — a difference of about one vote for every seven precincts.

It’s the tightest statewide election in modern Virginia history.

The State Board of Elections will certify the results next Monday, and the loser is certain to demand a recount that will keep the candidates and the voters in suspense until mid-December.

With the outcome still in doubt, Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, decided to make transition space available to both sides.

Mr. McDonnell will operate from the fourth floor of a state office building across the street from the Capitol, while Mr. Deeds will occupy 2,264 square feet two floors below.

“I’m told we have 34 more square feet — but that, like the vote, is close,” said Deeds transition director John Daniel.

The only other statewide recount in modern Virginia history came in 1989, when Democrat L. Douglas Wilder edged Republican Marshall Coleman to become the nation’s first black elected governor.

The recount shaved only 113 votes from Mr. Wilder’s 7,000-vote advantage.

Kissin challenge

Another candidate is getting in the race for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Frederick lawyer and political activist Barry Kissin announced his candidacy last week.

He has had a law practice in downtown Frederick since 1982 and is a former president of the Frederick County Consumer Cooperative.

Mr. Kissin is the second Democrat to enter the race. Andrew Duck of Brunswick announced his candidacy in May.

They are competing for the right to face U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican, next November.

Prioritizing

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who began his gubernatorial campaign with a pledge to make education his top priority, said one of his first acts as governor would be to create an education Cabinet to make sure all state agencies are focused on improving Maryland’s schools.

Mr. Duncan outlined that and other education proposals last week at the Children 1st awards banquet at a Baltimore church.

A document prepared by Mr. Duncan’s campaign said he also would require his budget secretary to complete work on an education budget before there could be any allocation of funds or final budget plans for any other agencies.

He also would encourage more parental involvement in schools by giving a preference for state contracts to companies that provide flexible work schedules for parents who volunteer in public schools.

That would use the state’s enormous purchasing power to reward companies that demonstrate a commitment to education, the document stated.

In the money

The good news is Virginia ended fiscal 2005 with a budget surplus exceeding $544 million.

The bad news is it could be a one-time infusion, and lawmakers say it’s not time to kick off many new programs.

The House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee discussed it last week.

They said the money will neither solve the state’s transportation woes, nor pay for expensive new initiatives such as statewide universal prekindergarten.

That’s one of Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine’s top campaign promises.

Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch it would be unwise to create new programs that the state might not be able to fund in six years.

Virginia is in the second year of its current two-year, $63 billion budget.

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

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