- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

Independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. says he will not back off his quixotic bid for the Virginia governor’s mansion.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, has not achieved double digits in any polls and is poised to lose in tomorrow’s election that is a battle for the top spot between Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Jerry W. Kilgore.

But Mr. Potts is standing firm.

“I’m in this race till the last minute of the last hour of the last day,” he said last week.

Mr. Potts held a press conference to criticize both of his opponents as running the “most negative campaign” he has ever been a part of.

He said neither candidate is being honest about the need to raise taxes to invest in the state’s future.

“We have to quit focusing on this free-lunch-bunch mind-set,” he said.

Mr. Potts also lambasted Mr. Kilgore for not appearing at an anti-terrorism speech President Bush delivered recently in Norfolk.

“I thought it was a slap in the face to the president to not be there,” he said. “It was at a time when the president needed a friend.”

Mr. Bush raised more than $2 million for Mr. Kilgore at a private fundraiser over the summer.

The president also is expected to appear with Mr. Kilgore tonight.

• Curious timing

A new Baltimore urban lifestyle magazine last week briefly posted on its Web site a video showing Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele at the magazine’s launch party, which also featured nude female models in body paint.

The launch party for B Magazine was held in mid-September, but a 30-second video of the event was posted for about 24 hours last week — after Mr. Steele had announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

In the video, Mr. Steele, a Republican, is shown addressing a small group of well-dressed men and women, saying the launch of the new magazine is “a great moment.” In a separate section of the video, women in body paint are shown lounging about and mingling with guests.

Paul Ellington, Mr. Steele’s chief of staff, said the lieutenant governor attended the event for about 30 minutes to showcase the need for minority-owned businesses.

A source who attended the party said “there was no touching” during the event.

B Magazine publisher Antoine Friend said Mr. Steele did not know that nude women would be featured at the event.

“How [would] he know? I didn’t know,” Mr. Friend said. “The party was arranged by a planner.”

Asked about the timing of the video’s posting, Mr. Friend hung up the phone.

• Voter ID

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has sent letters to all of the state’s voter registrars, asking them to protect the rights of people going to the polls tomorrow.

The ACLU says voters have complained about being turned away from the polls because they aren’t carrying identification.

Voters aren’t required to show identification to cast their ballots, and poll workers should be instructed to offer an affidavit of identity, the ACLU says.

The group’s executive director — Kent Willis — said he thinks poor or improper training of poll workers regarding the voter identification leads to most of the confusion that leads to voter disenfranchisement.

Also, the letters are instructing poll workers not to turn voters away for wearing buttons or clothing containing political messages.

Election officials need to know the distinction between electioneering and merely exercising the right to express their political preference, the letters state.

• Democratic bash

Tuesday was a night to honor the long political career of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, but hundreds of Democrats who gathered for the tribute were just as interested in looking to the future — with candidates working the crowd and hustling for votes in next year’s elections.

Mr. Sarbanes, who is retiring next year after five terms in the Senate, said he agreed to the $250-a-plate tribute only because it was fundraiser for the state Democratic Party.

Before the 750 assembled guests, he was remembered as a giant in Maryland politics.

“I have never served or worked with a finer man,” said former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who pointed out that Mr. Sarbanes has served with one out of seven of all senators in history during his long tenure in Washington.

Even Mr. Daschle turned the talk to next year’s elections, saying “the best legacy will be when we elect another Democratic senator and a Democratic governor.”

Maryland’s junior Democratic senator, Barbara A. Mikulski, took a similar tack in her remarks, saying, “We have to give him another Democratic senator.”

The packed crowd of Democratic donors was courted all night by other politicians — especially two Democrats seeking to replace Mr. Sarbanes, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and one-time president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mr. Mfume said his goal in seeking the Senate seat is “building on the legacy of Paul Sarbanes.”

The party’s front-runners for the governor’s nomination, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, also were floating around the banquet hall, and they brought campaign workers to hand out stickers.

“I’m here to show my admiration and respect for a tremendous life of public service,” said Mr. O’Malley, who like many at the event called Mr. Sarbanes a role model that in part inspired their own political careers.

The head of the party, Terry Lierman, urged the well-heeled crowd to start working now for next year’s elections.

“We’re ready for ‘06,” he said. “We need to be aggressive.”

• Money for coyotes

The House of Representatives last week approved $150,000 for wildlife-damage control in the Shenandoah Valley and in Southside Virginia.

The federal money will be used to help Virginia control coyotes.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, calls the funding a “huge victory” for farmers and ranchers.

The coyote population is growing at a rapid rate, and more farmers have been asking for help in dealing with the predators.

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

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