- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

Bill Clinton was the star of a fundraiser in Potomac last week, turning his glitter into an expected $500,000 in gold for his wife’s campaign treasure chest.

The money was to come from 300 of the closest friends of Weldon Latham, a high-powered lawyer, long-time Democratic Party activist and national co-chairman of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Clinton’s appearance at Mr. Latham’s Avenel home Wednesday night would make the event a great success, Mr. Latham said before the guests arrived. The former president has attended only one or two other fundraisers. Getting the ex-president on the bill, he said, was “a real coup.”

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign would not say how much she pulls in at a typical fundraiser, but the Democratic front-runner had raised a whopping $63 million as of June 30. Trailing her is fellow Democrat Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois with almost $59 million.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Washington Gas chief James DeGraffenreidt were among the 50 host committee members. Each committee member was expected to raise $15,000, said Lonnie Soury, Mr. Latham’s spokesman. Guests were expected to donate $1,000 or $2,300. That would put the expected totals in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.

In a telephone news conference with Mrs. Clinton on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Latham rattled off names of several blacks, Hispanics and women from across the country who were on the committee.

“I wanted a fundraiser to look like America,” he said, “one that represents every group in the nation and various parts of the country.”

Mr. Latham’s experience in corporate diversity counseling and government relations was the theme of the fundraiser.

Mrs. Clinton followed that theme. “America is stronger when we use everyone’s talents,” she said.

Mr. Latham said he is supporting Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama because of her track record as senator and first lady.

“The mere fact that he is an African American, although it is a great source of pride, is not enough,” said Mr. Latham, who is black.

Mr. Latham is the chairman of the legal committee of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. He has also held appointments in the Ford, Carter and Clinton administrations.

Mrs. Clinton is bringing her presidential campaign to Virginia for an event with bestselling author John Grisham.

Mrs. Clinton will visit Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater for a discussion with Mr. Grisham, author of “The Firm,” “A Time to Kill” and other bestselling legal suspense novels.

The Sept. 23 event will mark the second time since July that Mrs. Clinton has campaigned in Virginia, a state that has supported a Democrat for president only once since 1952. She addressed a gathering of statewide county officials in Richmond in July.

Mr. Grisham was a Democratic member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1983 to 1990. He now lives near Charlottesville.

Views on Iraq

The second Republican challenger to Rep. Wayne Gilchrest disagrees on Iraq with the longtime congressman from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“I fully support George W. Bush with the decision to go to war,” said John Leo Walter, a lawyer from Centreville, Md., who is making his first run for office. “It’s my heartfelt belief that if we don’t stop terrorism before it gets here, we are in serious trouble.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Gilchrest was one of only two Republicans in Congress to vote for troops to return home from Iraq starting this fall.

Mr. Gilchrest is also being challenged by state Sen. Andrew P. Harris of Baltimore County, who calls himself a more “mainstream Republican” than the 16-year incumbent.

Mr. Walter, 40, told the Easton Star-Democrat last week that he supports measures to preserve the environment but opposes massive spending for the effort. That, too, stands in contrast with Mr. Gilchrest, a staunch environmentalist.

Mr. Walter said he thinks most residents of the 1st District, which includes the entire Eastern Shore, have conservative leanings. And he thinks they need a political outsider to represent their interests.

“I think it really comes down to being the person that is the non-establishment or [about] breaking the status quo in politics right now,” he said.

Official killed

Maryland State Police are investigating a hit-and-run accident in Rhodesdale, Md., that killed a member of the Brookview Town Council.

Russell Powell was struck the evening of Sept. 7 while riding along Route 331 on a motorized scooter. He was flown to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Md., where he was pronounced dead.

The other vehicle fled the scene.

There is no shoulder on the road, and Mr. Powell was riding on the pavement, police said.

Mr. Powell was serving his second term on the Brookview Town Council.

New senator

Montgomery County Democrat Nancy J. King is the state’s newest senator, sworn in Sept. 6 to fill the term of former Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, who left to work for the University System of Maryland.

Mrs. King, a former delegate, smiled as she was sworn in by Gov. Martin O’Malley in a Senate chamber packed with other lawmakers.

“There are big challenges ahead. I’m up for it,” said Mrs. King, who was first elected to the House in 2002.

Mr. Hogan announced his resignation this summer. He will become a lobbyist for the state universities.

Mrs. King, Mr. O’Malley and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. all said the job for lawmakers will be tough in the coming year as the legislature grapples with potential tax increases to address a budget deficit. Mr. O’Malley made light of the thorny discussions ahead.

“This is an exciting moment for me to be able to swear in a senator,” Mr. O’Malley said, then grinned at the crowd for a moment.

“And then shortly, I will be swearing in a different way at the senators,” he said to laughter from the lawmakers.

Voting rights

The recently announced retirement of Virginia Sen. John W. Warner could be the best thing to happen to supporters of D.C. voting rights.

Mr. Warner, a Republican who began his first Senate term in 1979, has thus far not supported a bill that would grant the District its first-ever full vote in Congress. One of the leading candidates to replace him — Rep. Thomas M. Davis III — has been a nonstop advocate for the District.

“Tom Davis is an exceptional congressman when it comes to the District of Columbia,” said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group D.C. Vote. “Having him as an ally in the fight for D.C. voting rights is critical.”

Mr. Warner announced last week that he will retire in January 2009. Mr. Davis, Virginia Republican, is among a list of his potential replacements.

Having Mr. Davis in the opposite chamber could prove a boon for the District’s cause. Mr. Davis has introduced D.C. voting rights legislation three times in the House — in 2004, 2006 and this year.

The congressman is a co-sponsor of the current measure, which also would grant predominantly Republican Utah an additional seat in the House. The House version of the bill cleared that chamber in April, and the Senate measure passed through the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in July, with Mr. Warner casting the lone dissenting vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has scheduled a vote for tomorrow that would allow the Senate to begin debating the bill.

Davis spokesman nBrian McNicoll said the congressman would support the District’s right to representation regardless of which chamber he is serving in, but that Mr. Davis “hopes the Senate will pass the measure soon and render this question moot.”

“Tom Davis will fight for D.C. voting rights wherever he is in the political landscape,” Mr. McNicoll said.

Gary Emerling contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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