- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2006

A wig-wearing candidate in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race says state election officials have tampered with his name on the ballot. Daniel R. Vovak says that when he filed his candidacy papers Jan. 11 at the State Board of Elections, he wrote his name as “Daniel R. Vovak, The Wigman.”

Late last month, however, he was told by Donna Duncan, director of election management, that his name would appear on the ballot as “Daniel R. ‘Wig Man’ Vovak.”

Elections officials cited a law that forbids using titles on ballots.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the Candidacy and Campaign Finance division, said in a Jan. 27 letter to Mr. Vovak that he had consulted with Assistant Attorney General Mark Davis.

“It was agreed that your ballot name of ‘The Wig Man’ is not a name but a title,” Mr. DeMarinis, 33, wrote.

But Mr. Vovak is outraged by what he says is an effort to make his name less conspicuous on the ballot.

“I take great offense that anyone would manipulate a federal ballot. It’s repulsive,” said the self-proclaimed “ghostwriter,” who was born in Rockville and grew up in Ohio, and is running as a Republican in the primary against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

Mr. Vovak, who wears a shiny white wig that resembles a Colonial hairpiece, was a visible presence in Annapolis on Jan. 11, opening day of this year’s General Assembly session. Several lawmakers and reporters were heard asking, “Did you see the guy in the wig?”

“Obviously, I’m a formidable opponent,” Mr. Vovak said. “I don’t know who’s behind this at the board of elections.”

Mayors unite

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams played host to a group of city leaders from around the world last week, saying it was one more chance to talk about the lack of D.C. congressional voting rights.

During meetings of the United Cities and Local Governments Executive Bureau at the World Bank, Mr. Williams said he raised the issue as well as the similarities between the District and other cities abroad.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, said many leaders are sympathetic to the District’s lack of full representation in Congress, while many countries are just now beginning to recognize the concept of local government.

Mr. Williams also said he has raised the idea of increased investment by the World Bank in the District, which he said is as divided as any city in terms of poverty and education.

The mayors of Paris, Barcelona, and Quito, Ecuador, all praised Mr. Williams for making Washington a model of efficiency in local government.

Hostile reception

A former Virginia union boss who is Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s secretary of the commonwealth got a hostile reception last week before a panel of House Republicans.

Daniel LeBlanc, former president of the Virginia AFL-CIO, was cross-examined for nearly an hour before the House General Laws Committee.

Panel Republicans confronted him with newspaper clips seven to 10 years old, in which he likened the treatment of striking workers to segregation.

Republican panel members grilled Mr. LeBlanc about criteria he and the Kaine administration would use to pick appointees to boards and commissions.

Mr. LeBlanc said there would be no partisan litmus test for such posts and that the administration would consult Republicans and leading voices in businesses and professions in deciding appointments.

But he did not deny that support for the governor could be a factor.

Wedding bells

The Virginia General Assembly session is a time for hard work, long hours and receptions with lobbyists.

But this year, one of the top House Republicans will be getting married during the session.

House Appropriations Chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr., 74, plans to exchange vows at the Virginia Supreme Court in Richmond on Wednesday. The Fairfax County Republican chose the date based on “Crossover,” when House measures head to the Senate and vice versa. The day is expected to be the slowest of the 60-day session.

Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. will perform the rites. The guest list looks like a “Who’s Who” of the legislature and past and current officials, including Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

Fun with yogurt

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, pondering a run for president, toured a factory in New Hampshire on Friday before a speaking engagement with party leaders in Manchester.

The Democrat took a quick tour of the Stonyfield Farm plant, shaking hands with hard-hat-wearing workers as crates of yogurt whizzed by on overhead conveyor belts, with camera crews from CNN and local television stations in tow.

Stonyfield President Gary Hirshberg led the tour and gave Mr. Warner a container of French vanilla yogurt, which the former governor said was “great.”

Mr. Hirshberg said he was “delighted” to have Mr. Warner there as an advancement of public discourse.

Stonyfield, known for its organic products and environmentally conscious business philosophy, is the fourth-largest private company in the state.

“You guys have built something here you’ve got to be enormously proud of,” Mr. Warner told employees gathered to meet the presidential wannabe.

Mr. Warner posed for a few photos with employees and thanked them for the “afternoon snack” as he left.

Kerry rally?

Former presidential candidate John Kerry wasn’t stumping for himself during a stop last Monday in Baltimore.

And he wasn’t picking any favorites in the hotly contested Democratic primaries for governor and U.S. Senate.

While Mr. Kerry said he is considering running for president in 2008, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts told reporters at a luncheon for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, that he is more interested in visiting Maryland and other states to promote the Democratic Party.

“Let me be very clear about something, 2008 is not around the corner. 2006 is, and I’m here, and every other state that I can get to, to help re-elect people like Elijah and others who are making a difference,” Mr. Kerry said. “That will make more difference to the future of this country and the future of our party at the same time, and that’s what I am focused on.”

Maryland Democrats face tough, internecine battles this fall for a number of key positions.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan are battling for the Democratic nomination for governor.

In the Senate, Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and ex-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, are among seven Democrats vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

The winner likely will face Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican who has scant primary opposition.

“You all in Maryland are going to settle who the nominee is going to be. But I’ll tell you this, whoever that nominee is, they have a better vision” for dealing with issues ranging from jobs to health care to the environment, Mr. Kerry said.

“I want to hear strong voices at the state level fighting for access to education, fighting for health care, fighting for after-school programs, fighting for keeping jobs here and not sending them overseas. These are the kinds of things that make a difference in people’s lives,” Mr. Kerry said.

Pay raise

The Howard County Council has approved pay raises for council members and the county executive.

The raises will take effect after the November election. Council members will get a 45 percent increase that will raise their annual salary to $49,000.

Pay for the county executive will climb from $136,000 to $147,000.

A citizens commission recommended the new salaries, and they were approved last week in a 4-1 vote.

Howard’s council members are the second-lowest-paid in the region.

Spouse power

A bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers’ wives will help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Richmond.

Cessie Howell, Amy Frederick, Rose Ann Janis and Abby Shannon are working to raise $50,000 for the home they plan to build in 2007.

Mrs. Howell is the wife of House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican. Mrs. Frederick is the wife of Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William Republican. Mrs. Janis is the wife of Delegate Bill Janis, Goochland Republican. Mrs. Shannon is the wife of Delegate Stephen C. Shannon, Fairfax Democrat.

“This is a great opportunity for us to give back to the community that hosts our spouses each year during the General Assembly session and to honor the capital city of our great commonwealth,” Mrs. Frederick said

New aides

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley has added two new aides to his campaign staff for his race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Dawn Flythe, a Prince George’s County resident with experience in state government and political campaigns, will be the deputy campaign manager and chief of staff for Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, Mr. O’Malley’s lieutenant governor running mate.

Miss Flythe was Mr. Brown’s House of Delegates campaign manager before he joined the Baltimore mayor’s gubernatorial ticket.

She also worked on Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s campaign for governor four years ago.

Mr. O’Malley also announced that Hari Sevugan, who most recently worked on the successful campaign of Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, will be the new communications director for the O’Malley-Brown ticket.

Mr. Sevugan was policy director for Mr. Kaine’s campaign.

mJon Ward and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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