- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has filled two of his top U.S. Senate campaign staff slots, naming a former Democrat as his deputy campaign manager.

Marcus Reese, 30, who worked for the Georgia Democratic Party in 2002, is the new deputy campaign director for Mr. Steele, a Republican.

A Steele campaign release said Mr. Reese was the Democratic Party’s political director. He switched to work for the Republican National Committee in 2004 in Florida.

A former colleague of Mr. Reese’s in Florida who asked not to be named said Mr. Reese is “a young African-American pro-fessional who figured out that he has a lot more in common with the Republican Party than with the Democratic Party.”

A party official said Mr. Reese was not part of the Democrat’s leadership team.

Mr. Reese most recently worked for the RNC in the District.

Mr. Steele also hired a new campaign spokesman. Doug Heye, 33, was hired from the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Sen. Richard M. Burr, North Carolina Democrat, and will join the campaign Thursday.

The former head of the Maryland Republican Party, Mr. Steele is seeking to replace Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat who is retiring after five terms. Mr. Steele has no serious competition in the Republican primary.

• The taxman goeth

Virginia Tax Commissioner Kenneth Thorson is retiring, effective May 1.

Mr. Thorson is 65 and is leaving after 22 years of state government service.

He has served as tax commissioner since May 2002.

He also was the first director of the Virginia Lottery and served in the state Attorney General’s Office.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, has appointed Janie Bowen to succeed Mr. Thorson.

Miss Bowen, 52, will be the first woman to hold the post in Virginia.

A Charlottesville native, she currently serves in the governor’s Cabinet as deputy secretary of finance after working for the Virginia Department of Taxation for 28 years.

The Department of Taxation administers 30 state taxes, including income taxes, sales and use taxes, and miscellaneous excise taxes.

The department employs more than 850 classified employees, with a main office in Richmond and one district office in Norfolk.

• Unprepared

Members of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday called for District-area leaders to improve their ability to respond together when an emergency threatens the region.

During a hearing to examine how homeland security money is being spent in the District, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, lawmakers from both parties criticized the slow progress in coordination and planning.

“The region has yet to release a final version of the strategic plan,” said Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia subcommittee.

In addition to the District and the state governments of Maryland and Virginia, there are 75 local jurisdictions operating in the area.

There are also scores of federal agencies and military bases that could play a role in an emergency.

Local officials said their ability to work together has improved, but only limited progress has been made on solving problems, such as communications compatibility and information sharing among the various public safety agencies.

• Ethics probe

A town planner in Mount Airy, Md., is facing an ethics complaint.

The Carroll County Times reported that the complaint says that planning commissioner Jay Neuman has a possible improper connection to a developer.

The complaint was filed with the local ethics commission.

The town code bars the parties from speaking publicly about the details, but Mr. Neuman is asking to be released from the confidentiality requirement so he can make a public explanation.

Mr. Neuman is running for a seat on the Town Council.

• Where’s Bill?

Comedian Bill Cosby, whose recent criticisms of black culture have ignited sometimes rancorous debate, last week backed out of a New York City fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume of Maryland.

Mr. Cosby’s publicist, David Brokaw, said the award-winning comic was not ill, and there was no scheduling conflict with the event, which was held last Monday at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

“He doesn’t want to talk about it,” Mr. Brokaw said of Mr. Cosby.

A spokesman for Mr. Mfume, a Democrat and the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Mr. Cosby’s absence would not hurt the campaign, which is trailing far behind that of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin in fundraising and popularity polls.

“Bill Cosby is still a host of the event. If he can’t come to it, it doesn’t make a difference for our fundraising,” Mfume spokesman Walter Ludwig said.

• School money

Some public schools in Baltimore and Baltimore County were among nearly 20 public and private schools that have made donations to political campaigns in Maryland during the past six years.

An analysis of campaign-finance records by the Baltimore Sun last week shows that schools have given nearly $6,000 to the campaigns since 2000.

The list includes a donation from Parkville High School to a slate of Republican legislative candidates who have since returned the money.

A Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, has returned a donation from the private Foundation Schools.

The state Attorney General’s Office said political contributions aren’t a proper use of public funds, and private schools with nonprofit status are barred by federal law from making political donations.

• Dead again

An attempt to revive a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex “marriage” failed last week in the Maryland Senate, apparently leaving no further options this year for opponents of homosexual “marriage.”

With a proposal to amend the state constitution languishing in committee and only two weeks left in the General Assembly session, Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Somerset Republican, resorted to a rarely used parliamentary move to try to bring the amendment back out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

He submitted a petition asking the Senate to bypass the committee and put the amendment on the agenda for debate.

But Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery Democrat and chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, immediately responded with another unusual move, making a motion to table the Stoltzfus petition indefinitely.

The Frosh motion was approved on a 26-21 vote, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, ruled that the amendment cannot be brought up again this session. Seven Democrats joined all 14 Republicans in an unsuccessful attempt to revive the amendment.

The House of Delegates had voted 78-61 earlier in the session to defeat a motion to override the House Judiciary Committee, which killed the same-sex “marriage” ban in February.

• Thanks, Jim

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III has been honored for his efforts to improve homeland security.

He received the America Secure Award from the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) at its annual Homeland Security Division Conference on Thursday at the Crystal City Hyatt hotel in Arlington.

Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, served as chairman of the Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction from 1999 to 2004.

The panel, which became known as the Gilmore Commission, assessed the capability of federal and local governments to respond to a terrorist attack.

Of the commission’s 164 recommendations, 146 have been adopted as public policy by the federal and legislative branches of government.

• Jon Ward contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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