- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

Republicans in Prince George’s County say an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among black voters will rock Democrats next week on Election Day.

“There is an underground movement that is going on that is going to explode,” said Virginia W. Kellogg, chairman of the Prince George’s County Republican Central Committee. “African-American people now recognize that [Democrats] have taken the black vote for granted. There is a revolt going on.”

Mrs. Kellogg, who is black, said resentment against the state Democratic Party began to form in 2002 when Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democratic candidate for governor, picked as her running mate Adm. Charles R. Larson, a white former Republican.

Mrs. Townsend passed over Isiah “Ike” Leggett, the former state Democratic Party chairman and current candidate for Montgomery County executive, who is black.

The lingering resentment was rekindled in the campaign for U.S. Senate this year when party leaders helped nominate Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a white 10-term congressman from Baltimore, over Kweisi Mfume, a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“Black Democrats in Prince George’s County are mad,” Mrs. Kellogg said. “They are working quietly and working behind the scenes. Some of those people are very influential.”

She declined to name names.

However, she said a chief beneficiary of the revolt could be Prince George’s County businessman Ron Miller, the Republican challenger to state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat.

Ron Miller said his Democratic supporters are staying underground out of fear of the incumbent, who has run the Senate for 19 years and become an icon of state politics.

“Quite frankly, they are afraid to come out and publicly support me because there might be retaliation by Mike Miller,” he said. “My hope is that the undercurrent of dissatisfaction will … expose some vulnerability” among Democratic candidates.

A spokeswoman for the Senate president declined to comment.

• 20 years later

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley says he does not remember whether he disclosed a drunken-driving charge on his application to the state bar association. He refused to provide any more details on the incident.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., meanwhile, denied that Republicans were behind the revelation of the 1987 charge two weeks before the election in which voters will decide whether to return Mr. Ehrlich to office or replace him with the Democratic challenger.

“I’m surprised he didn’t claim it was George Bush,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “That’s not any concern to anybody what happened 20 years ago.”

The Maryland State Bar Association, which governs lawyers in the state, requires that all lawyers disclose their prior criminal proceedings, “including traffic citations, arrests and summonses,” although an exception is made for those whose criminal records have been expunged.

“I don’t recall what was on the bar application or disclosure,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I’m quite sure I followed whatever rules were required at the time. And the bar association also does background checks.”

Mr. O’Malley acknowledged Tuesday that he was acquitted of driving under the influence while a law student almost two decades ago, a disclosure his campaign blamed on Mr. Ehrlich’s campaign. The charge was first reported Wednesday by the Baltimore Sun.

Mr. O’Malley refused to say whether he would release his bar application. Mr. Ehrlich, meanwhile, released his bar application, in which he answered “no” to questions about whether he had been a party to any criminal proceeding or whether there had been any “unfavorable incidents” in his life that would bear on his character or fitness to practice law.

Mr. Ehrlich previously has said he also had a brush with the law when he and a friend scalped tickets to Princeton University sporting events to make extra money during college. Mr. Ehrlich said Wednesday that the matter was handled by Princeton officials, not the police, and did not require reporting on his bar application.

At a union endorsement of his candidacy, Mr. O’Malley repeatedly noted that he was found not guilty.

“I do respect your right to ask these questions, and I hope you’ll understand my unwillingness to fuel distractions and to try to turn what was a not-guilty finding 20 years ago into a guilty finding today,” Mr. O’Malley said. “A person’s character is the product of a lifetime.”

• Unreal estate

A Pasadena woman says a Maryland delegate duped her into signing over her house to him in violation of a 2005 homeowners protection law for which he voted.

Delegate Tony McConkey, Anne Arundel Republican, is accused of committing “foreclosure rescue fraud,” according to a lawsuit filed last Monday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Mr. McConkey said that the plaintiff, Teresa Milligan, was lying when she accused him of fraud and that he followed the “letter of the law” when buying her home. He said he moved to evict her because she did not pay rent.

“This seems like a desperate attempt to stop the eviction,” Mr. McConkey said.

Mr. McConkey began eviction proceedings against Miss Milligan earlier this month. She said she didn’t know that she no longer owned her home.

“I felt like he was there to help me,” said Miss Milligan, 42. “He did save the house, but I guess he saved it for himself. He didn’t save it for me.”

Legal professionals said foreclosure rescue fraud occurs when a homeowner who is facing foreclosure signs over a home’s deed, either knowingly or unwittingly. The “foreclosure consultant” benefits financially, while the homeowner loses equity and often is kicked out not knowing he or she no longer owns it.

The lawsuit says Mr. McConkey misled Miss Milligan about her options, improperly advised her to dismiss her bankruptcy and served as her real estate agent while he was seeking to benefit by buying the property.

The lawsuit also says the signature on the deed transferring ownership of the property is not Miss Milligan’s.

Mr. McConkey, 42, has represented central Anne Arundel County in the General Assembly since 2003. He is up for re-election Nov. 7, and one of his challengers is Democrat Patricia Weathersbee, the wife of county State’s Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee.

In 1995, Mr. McConkey agreed to be disbarred as a lawyer after a failed real estate deal in Prince George’s County in the late 1980s. He acknowledged that he “failed to maintain and account for funds entrusted to me.”

He also had his real estate license revoked but later had it reinstated.

Mr. McConkey said the current case was no different from many of the homes he has bought in foreclosure, and that he made all the disclosures required by the 2005 law that criminalized foreclosure-rescue scams.

“Because I do this a lot, I did it to the letter,” he said.

Miss Milligan told the Baltimore Sun that Mr. McConkey knocked on her door days before her home was to be sold at a foreclosure auction and offered to lend her money to prevent the foreclosure and save her equity. He said he then would purchase the home and charge her rent.

Miss Milligan said she initially agreed to the sale but changed her mind. She accepted Mr. McConkey’s offer of an $18,200 loan to prevent the foreclosure and decided to sell the house. According to real estate listings filed with the lawsuit, Mr. McConkey listed the home with his name as the agent, but he was unsuccessful in three attempts, Miss Milligan said.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. McConkey told Miss Milligan that they would go back to the original plan, and he would purchase the home from her. She did not agree, and Mr. McConkey told her that he already owned the house. The next day, she went to the land records office and found a deed to her house, signed by her, Mr. McConkey and a notary public. It was dated Jan. 3, but wasn’t filed until Sept. 25.

Miss Milligan said she does not think she signed the deed, and if she did, she didn’t realize what she was signing.

Mr. McConkey disputed that account, and said he didn’t file the deed right away because there was no hurry and because he was trying to help her sell her house for more money.

“She signed a contract of sale,” he said. “She signed the deed in January. … It was notarized.”

• Barely ahead

A new opinion poll shows the race in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District is running about even.

Mason-Dixon Polling and Research said Republican Thelma D. Drake has a slight edge with 46 percent support to 44 percent for Democratic challenger Phil Kellam. That makes the race a statistical tie.

Mason-Dixon said the poll was conducted last Monday and Tuesday among 400 likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of five percentage points.

Mrs. Drake is trying to win her second term in a district that covers Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

The poll found that 10 percent are undecided, which could be good news for Mr. Kellam as undecided voters tend to go for challengers, said Mason-Dixon’s Brad Coker.

• ‘In the hunt’

Tim Quinn, a homosexual candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, is working hard to unseat a Republican incumbent in a district on Maryland’s largely conservative Eastern Shore.

Mr. Quinn announced in January 2005 that he would seek to represent Dorchester and Wicomico counties. On Sept. 12, he won the Democratic primary.

“I wasn’t surprised that we won,” Mr. Quinn told the Washington Blade. “I was surprised that we were so much in the hunt. I mean, we’re really in the hunt on this.”

Mr. Quinn, 56, is now working to unseat District 37B incumbent Jeannie Haddaway.

Miss Haddaway, 29, a delegate since 2003, co-sponsored Maryland’s Marriage Protection Act, a failed proposal to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex “marriage.”

Despite Mr. Quinn’s efforts and optimism, some political observers see an uphill fight for him.

“It’s a heavily Republican district, based on voting behavior,” said John Willis, a director of the University of Baltimore’s School of Public Affairs. “And challenging incumbents is tough, anyway.”

Mr. Quinn’s campaign, now in its 22nd month, has found success through grass-roots efforts.

“I wasn’t that well known and established in this district,” he said. “When we started the campaign, I had only been living here about four years.”

To increase his exposure and campaign funds, Mr. Quinn coordinated informal events such as a wine tasting and a yard sale. The gatherings were successful, he said, and started a buzz about the campaign.

Mr. Quinn followed by pushing his agenda: education, better jobs and affordable health care.

The first two goals, he said, can be achieved by getting the district a long-needed technical college.

“Basically, what that will do is create an educated work force,” he said. “That’s what we need out here to attract businesses.”

The third goal, he said, can be achieved by creating mobile health care centers. Intended for poor or rural families, the operations can be staffed by young doctors in exchange for loan payoffs.

“There are models out there to make this work,” he said. “It can happen.”

Mr. Quinn has faced some unfriendly voters. He said some people can’t see past his sexual orientation.

“I’m running into some kind of prejudices here and there,” he said. “Most of the time it’s not there, but once in a while it’s there.”

• No middle ground

Passing an amendment to constitutionally ban same-sex “marriage” would protect traditional marriage and “stop the gay agenda,” Virginia Delegate Robert G. Marshall argued during a debate on the issue last Monday night.

“To alter the definition of marriage is to destroy it,” said Mr. Marshall, Prince William Republican and one of the sponsors of the measure that cleared the General Assembly. “There is no middle ground here. Marriage is under attack, and I want to preserve it.”

Sen. John S. Edwards, Roanoke Democrat, countered that “the people attacking marriage are heterosexuals” because about 40 percent of marriages end in divorce.

The two sparred before an audience of about 175 at the University of Richmond’s law school.

Voters will decide Nov. 7 whether a ban on same-sex “marriage” will be written into the state constitution. Virginia already defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The amendment also would ban civil unions.

Mr. Edwards argued that the amendment would not change the premise of the law but would encourage hate.

Mr. Marshall replied, “To suggest that people who support the amendment are motivated solely by hate … you’re putting people on the defensive.”

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

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