- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani came to Maryland last week to praise Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and raise cash for his fellow Republican’s re-election bid.

Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Ehrlich hailed each other as fellow moderates, and Mr. Giuliani said Mr. Ehrlich has provided the kind of leadership that states need.

Speaking to reporters at the fundraiser in Baltimore, Mr. Giuliani said he admires Mr. Ehrlich’s commitment to fiscal discipline.

“This is the kind of governor we need throughout the country,” Mr. Giuliani said. “There are a lot of states that need this kind of leadership.”

As for his own political future, Mr. Giuliani said he is “seriously considering” a run for president in 2008. But he reiterated, as he has in many campaign-style appearances, that he is focused on the midterm elections this year. He said he would continue to travel the country to gauge the breadth of his support and his ability to raise the money needed for a presidential bid.

Without specifically addressing his visitor’s presidential ambitions, Mr. Ehrlich said the former mayor would be a strong candidate if he were on the ballot in Maryland.

“Philosophically, his views are in the mainstream of where Maryland is,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “Clearly, there’s a lot of compatibility with my views on a variety of issues.”

With supporters paying $4,000 a ticket, Wednesday’s reception at a downtown Baltimore hotel collected at least $500,000 for Mr. Ehrlich’s campaign. Donors posed for pictures with Mr. Giuliani and the governor.

In Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, Mr. Ehrlich is running what appears to be a tight race against Democrat Martin O’Malley, the popular mayor of Baltimore.

Mr. Giuliani is notable for breaking with Republican orthodoxy on many issues, including abortion rights and homosexual rights, both of which he supports. Mr. Ehrlich also has positioned himself as a moderate on such issues, bolstering his efforts to court Democrats, much as Mr. Giuliani did in New York.

“You can’t get elected in New York City nor in Maryland without doing that,” said Bo Harmon, Mr. Ehrlich’s campaign manager.

Back on the stage

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III is establishing a political action committee that once again will make him a player in Virginia politics.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Thursday that Mr. Gilmore submitted papers to set up the American Council on Reform Policy with the State Board of Elections.

He was governor from 1998 to 2002, and has said he plans to run for office again. Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, has not said whether he will run for governor again in 2009 or to succeed Sen. John W. Warner, if Mr. Warner does not run for re-election in 2008.

The PAC will allow Mr. Gilmore to raise money for a state race and bankroll legislative candidates he supports next year, when all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for election.

Backing Cropp

The business community seems to like Linda W. Cropp in her bid to become the next mayor of the District.

The Greater Washington Board of Trade’s political action committee last week endorsed the D.C. Council chairman, a Democrat, citing her track record of being collaborative with members of the business, civic and nonprofit communities.

The group’s co-chairman said members were particularly impressed by Mrs. Cropp’s skeptical approach to Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ original proposal to build a new ballpark to lure a baseball team to town.

Michael Rogers said Mrs. Cropp stood up for D.C. residents by trying to seek a better deal, while also not turning away baseball, which has economic benefits for the city.

Mrs. Cropp also has been endorsed by the D.C. Building Industry Association.

Confusing message

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele is running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, but a visit to his campaign Web site recently might have confused those expecting to see rah-rah Republicanism.

There was U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, very much a Democrat, with his hand resting on Mr. Steele’s shoulder. And there was Mr. Steele chatting with Kweisi Mfume, also very much a Democrat who could wind up as Mr. Steele’s opponent in November.

Democrats said there is a good reason for the chumminess: It’s a way for Mr. Steele to distance himself from President Bush.

“Michael Steele cannot be elected as a Bush Republican, which he is, and he’s going out of his way to paint himself as a Democrat,” said Artie Harris, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party.

But Doug Heye, communications director for the Steele campaign, said including photographs of Democrats on the Web site reflects the lieutenant governor’s commitment “to building bridges, working with people of both parties to accomplish important goals for Marylanders.”

“He’s never made any bones that he’s a Republican. It’s something he talks about at great length in the campaign,” Mr. Heye said.

Mr. Hoyer promptly asked that the photograph be removed, and Mr. Heye said last Monday that it would be replaced with a photograph of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, very much a Republican, “which we think is more than a fair trade.”

Mark Clack, a spokesman for Mr. Mfume, said his candi-date was surprised that the photograph was posted but did not insist that it be removed.

“I think it’s part of their strategy to try and disguise Mr. Steele’s party affiliation or cast him as not being a part of the GOP establishment,” Mr. Clack said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign also has drawn complaints for using a compliment paid to the Republican by Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, another politician who is very much a Democrat, in its most recent television advertisement.

Mr. Schaefer, who seems to like the governor, said the ad implies he has endorsed him. “I have publicly made it clear that I am fully supporting the nominee of my party, the Democratic Party,” Mr. Schaefer said in a letter in which he asked that the advertisement be pulled.

Asked about Democratic claims that Mr. Steele and Mr. Ehrlich are trying to hide their party affiliations, Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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