- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

Former D.C. fire Chief Ronnie Few is running for mayor — of Augusta, Ga., that is.

The Augusta Chronicle reports that Mr. Few announced his candidacy last week to run the city where he served as fire chief from 1997 until 2000, when he was tapped by Mayor Anthony A. Williams to run the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

“I’ve been contemplating about running for mayor for some time, and I decided I wanted to continue to serve in the public sector,” Mr. Few, 53, told the Chronicle. “Augusta is a city I love. That’s why I came back here when my fire service career ended.”

Mr. Few resigned from the D.C. fire department in May 2002, after reports surfaced that he and three of his top deputies had inflated their credentials on resumes they submitted to the city.

A May 2004 inspector general’s report also blamed Chief Few and fire officials under his management for mishandling millions of dollars worth of contracts and using department credit cards and petty cash accounts for unauthorized expenditures — including paying for parking tickets, salary advances and purchases at a steak shop.

That report followed a July 2002 special grand jury report out of Richmond County, Ga., that accused Chief Few of establishing slush funds with public money, making illegal promotions, obstructing justice and leaving that department in chaos.

No criminal charges were filed in either case.

Mr. Few applied for his old job as fire chief in Augusta last year but did not get the position.

• With blinders on

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the front-runner in the U.S. Senate race in Maryland, says his campaign will not include attacks on rival Kweisi Mfume for the Democratic nomination — even if he is gaining in the polls.

“I put blinders on and focus on myself, my record and the voters,” Mr. Cardin said. “I don’t compare myself to anyone else. That’s for the voters to do.”

A poll last month by nonpartisan Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies showed Mr. Cardin edging out Mr. Mfume in the September primary.

But the poll also showed Mr. Mfume, a former congressman and leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was more popular among black voters, a key Democratic voting bloc.

Still, Mr. Cardin said last week that he would not target black voters or craft a message to appeal to them specifically.

“There are a lot of different ethnic communities in Maryland,” he said. “We’ve found the same message is effective with all of them. …Our campaign strategy is reaching out to those parts of Maryland where they don’t know me that well.”

• ‘Idol’ fan

“American Idol” finalist Elliott Yamin’s return to his hometown of Richmond on Friday included a meeting with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine at the executive mansion.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, clapped and grinned as Mr. Yamin hopped out of his stretch limo through the window and greeted the governor’s staff.

Mr. Yamin hugged Mr. Kaine and said, “I feel like the luckiest person alive.”

Inside the mansion, the governor presented Mr. Yamin with a T-shirt that read, “Virginia is for Elliott Lovers.”

Mr. Kaine also gave him one to help butter up the show’s most cantankerous judge. It read, “Virginia is for Simon Lovers.”

• Bush for Drake

President Bush will be in Virginia Beach this week to campaign for Rep. Thelma Drake.

Mrs. Drake’s campaign said Mr. Bush will attend a $5,000-per-person lunch Friday at a private home to raise money for Mrs. Drake’s 2nd District race against Democrat Philip Kellam.

Vice President Dick Cheney was the featured speaker at a Drake fundraiser in February.

Mr. Kellam, the commissioner of revenue in Virginia Beach, told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that the visit from Mr. Bush and the earlier Cheney visit “shows that Thelma Drake is now a wholly owned subsidiary of her national political leadership.”

He criticized what he calls the leadership failure of Republicans who have changed things for the worse since 1994. He also cited the growing budget deficit and the war in Iraq.

• Ehrlich ads

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will be returning to the TV screen — this time with a new co-star.

The governor stars in a new ad urging Marylanders to “go early, stay late” when they travel to Ocean City this summer. It is meant to help reduce traffic congestion on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The new ad includes an appearance by former Gov. Marvin Mandel. Mr. Ehrlich said last year’s spot with Comptroller William Donald Schaefer also will run this year. Both co-stars are Democrats who playing nice with the current governor, a Republican.

A provision in this year’s budget makes it illegal for the ads to run in the months leading up to an election.

Mr. Ehrlich complained that he is being held to a different standard than his Democratic predecessors were and said his lawyers are reviewing the restriction to see how it will affect him.

• Southside slam

A Virginia state employee who posted snarky comments online about the economically troubled Martinsville area has sparked anger among some Southside area leaders and prompted one legislator to call for his resignation.

Will Vehrs works for the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, an economic development agency. He contributed last month to a weekly contest on the Virginia Conservative blog in which posters write their own captions for various photos.

Mr. Vehrs’ remarks were posted under a photo of two musicians performing their prize-winning jingle about Martinsville and Henry County during the community’s monthly economic development meeting. In the picture, singer Cindy Price is wearing a cropped, midriff-baring shirt.

Mr. Vehrs wrote: “Cindy’s top was symbolic of the decline in Southside’s fabric industry.” He also wrote, “Martinsville: Easy to Leave,” a play on Richmond’s slogan: “Richmond: Easy to Love.”

Mr. Vehrs has apologized repeatedly. But Delegate Ward L. Armstrong, Henry County Democrat, thinks Mr. Vehrs should leave his job.

A Department of Business Assistance spokeswoman said the agency is considering reprimanding Mr. Vehrs. It was not clear whether he posted the comments during work hours or whether there’s a policy against employees’ blogging.

• Vote early

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton wants city voters to vote — and the sooner, the better.

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, is urging the D.C. Council to pass a bill that would authorize early voting. She has sponsored similar legislation in Congress.

“I am urging passage by the Council now because there is no indication that the Republican majority will move my early voting bill to the floor,” she said last week.

“Many jurisdictions have taken note of the several advantages in efficiency and convenience both to the government and to the public,” Mrs. Norton said. “Early voting is surely the best and most accessible way to increase poor participation in this most basic of democratic processes.

Twenty-three states allow early voting, including Maryland, where the idea is not sitting well with some.

• Matthew Cella and S.A.Miller contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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