- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

Maryland voters favor national front-runners Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, in the 2008 presidential race, a poll shows.

However, a third of likely Maryland voters remained undecided, and by the time they get to vote their choices likely will be influenced by the outcome of the early races in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are about four months away, said pollster Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks. The company conducted the phone survey from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26.

Maryland residents won’t vote until Feb. 12, when the state joins the District and Virginia a week after Super Tuesday.

The poll shows Mrs. Clinton ahead among Democratic voters with 32 percent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois with 18 percent and 10 percent for former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

The other Democratic candidates — Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio — register in the low single digits. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut was not included in the poll. About 32 percent of those surveyed said they were unsure whom they would support.

Mr. Giuliani holds a similar lead among Maryland Republicans, with 32 percent. Sen. John McCain of Arizona is supported by 13 percent of likely primary voters, and actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee got 12 percent, though the survey was conducted before Mr. Thompson formally entered the race. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at 8 percent.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas are in the low single digits. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado was included in the poll but received less than 1 percent.

About 29 percent of Republican primary voters said they were undecided.

The margin of error was 5.4 percentage points for the Democratic contest and 7.4 percentage points for Republicans. Pollsters surveyed 335 Democrats and 177 Republicans.

The most critical aspect of the survey — and the one that could be relevant to the outcome of the Democratic primary if it holds up in other states — is the strength of Mrs. Clinton’s support in the black community, Donald F. Norris, professor and chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, told the Baltimore Sun.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama each polled at 31 percent among black voters. Mr. Norris said Mrs. Clinton probably benefits from the support that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, maintains among black voters.

Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Obama among white voters, 31 percent to 13 percent. She is ahead in Baltimore, 40 percent to 23 percent, and in Baltimore County, 34 percent to 10 percent. Most notably, perhaps, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Obama in voter-rich, heavily black Prince George’s County, 33 percent to 28 percent.

Mr. Obama has a 34 percent to 25 percent lead over Mrs. Clinton with the 35-and-younger age group. But, Mr. Norris warned that young voters don’t vote as heavily as older voters.

Mr. Giuliani leads Mr. McCain in each age bracket, among white voters, and with both men and women among Republicans.

• China connection

It seems panda cub Tai Shan and his parents aren’t the District’s only link to China.

D.C. Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry was the keynote speaker last week at the China Association of Mayors conference held in Nantong.

The address was part of Mr. Barry’s five-day visit to Asia where, according to a press release, “he will visit and meet with several Chinese dignitaries.”

“I think it is truly important for us to expand our horizons by visiting, communicating and establishing working relationships with people in faraway lands,” said Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. “I think it not only helps us grow as a city but as a nation as well.”

The China Association of Mayors works to further the development of Chinese cities through sponsoring studies and networking between international counterparts and its membership, which is comprised of mayors and vice mayors in the communist country.

As D.C. mayor, Mr. Barry signed a sister-city agreement between the District and Beijing, which led to the construction of a friendship arch in Chinatown. Nantong, where Mr. Barry delivered his speech, is considered the birthplace of modern Chinese industry.

• Expanding field

The field of candidates running for Maryland’s 6th District seat in Congress is getting bigger.

Hagerstown native Robin Deibert has formally announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination, saying incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican, has lost touch with constituents in the westernmost counties.

If elected, Mrs. Deibert said, she will focus on ending the war in Iraq and approving a universal health care plan.

Miss Deibert is a 40-year-old Army veteran, works as an information-technology specialist and lives in Fairplay.

She will face Andrew Duck and Larry Smith in the Democratic primary.

Three Republicans are running against Mr. Bartlett for the Republican nomination: Tom Croft, Joseph Krysztoforski and Frank Nethken.

• Slots support

Former Maryland House Speaker Casper Taylor is lobbying for slot machines to boost the fortunes of the Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort near Cumberland.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Mr. Taylor and five fellow lobbyists have registered with the state as representing M&T; Bank, the trustee for private bondholders who are owed $26 million by the struggling, state-supported resort. Their registration materials say they will be working on proposals for video-lottery terminals — also known as slot machines.

The director of the Maryland Economic Development Corp., which owns the nine-year-old resort, said he favors adding slots to the resort complex in a building separate from the 215-room hotel.

• Grasmick Drive

The new high school in Allegany County includes a feature honoring one of the key players in its construction — state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

She was on hand last week at the Mountain Ridge High School dedication ceremony and was surprised to find out the circular driveway around the school has been named for her.

School officials say the school’s mailing address will be 100 Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick Drive.

The school is the first new high school in the county in more than 50 years. The construction cost $40 million.

• New job

Kevin Hall, press aide to Virginia governors for the past six years, is leaving Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s administration for the U.S. Senate campaign of his former boss, Mark Warner.

Mr. Hall will be the lead press officer for Mr. Warner, a Democrat, whom he served as press secretary and deputy press secretary from the start of Mr. Warner’s term as governor in 2002.

Mr. Hall left Mr. Warner’s office after Mr. Kaine’s 2005 election victory to work for Mr. Kaine’s transitional office, then returned to the governor’s office as press secretary for Mr. Kaine after his 2006 inauguration.

Mr. Hall worked for Richmond’s WRVA news radio and the Virginia News Network in Richmond before joining the Associated Press as a newsman in 2000.

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

Hampton convention

For the first time in 12 years, the state Democratic Convention will be held in Hampton, Va.

The convention will take place at the Hampton Roads Convention Center from June 13 to June 14.

State Democratic leaders picked Hampton over Richmond and Fredericksburg. The announcement was made Wednesday.

The convention is expected to draw about 4,500 delegates.

During the 1996 convention in the Hampton Coliseum, Mark Warner won the party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican. Mark Warner lost, but went on to become Virginia’s governor from 2002 to 2006.

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