- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Maryland Board of Public Works paid tribute last week to outgoing state Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, but it was perhaps a little too uniform in its praise for the retiring Cabinet member.

The three-member board — Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp — heaped praise on Ms. Swaim-Staley, a 25-year state employee who has been secretary since 2009 and plans to step down July 1.

Board members credited her for shepherding completion of the Intercounty Connector and overseeing improvements at the Port of Baltimore, bringing a rare instance of agreement between Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Franchot.

Mr. Franchot, the resident contrarian on the board, often trumpets his fiscal conservatism and has been known to needle the governor on occasion.

The two clashed during this year’s General Assembly session when Mr. Franchot chastised the governor for supporting income- and gas-tax increases, to which Mr. O’Malley called the comptroller Maryland’s “version of Mitt Romney.”

Mr. O’Malley thanked Ms. Swaim-Staley for helping the officials find some common ground.

“I also want to congratulate you on one very momentous final accomplishment,” he told her, “and that is getting the treasurer and the governor to both applaud unanimously every word of something the comptroller said.”

Attendees at the meeting erupted in laughter. Even Mr. Franchot.

“That has never happened, and I will be preparing a proclamation to honor this occasion,” the governor added.

Campaign season

There’s the rebuttal. The prebuttal. And then the pre-prebuttal. And with fall elections still six months away, Virginia saw it all last week.

As part of President Obama’s official campaign kickoff, the commander-in-chief appeared at a rally Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

So the Republican Party of Virginia announced an event to be held at 11 a.m. Friday with Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, and Delegate Barbara J. Comstock, Fairfax Republican, to discuss the president’s “disastrous economic record” ahead of his official visit.

Not to be outdone, Democrats rounded up the troops, announcing their own event to held at 10 a.m. Friday with Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, state Sen. A. Donald McEachin, Henrico Democrat, and Delegate Jennifer L. McLellan, Richmond Democrat, “to set the record straight, and highlight Mitt Romney’s record of raising tax and fees on small businesses as Governor of Massachusetts.”

Mr. Romney’s campaign also announced late Thursday that Pete Snyder, chairman of the GOP’s coordinated Virginia campaign in 2012, would be dispatched to Arlington County on Friday to offer a response to Mr. Obama’s visit to Washington-Lee High School to talk college affordability. And for good measure, both the Romney campaign and the state party announced Friday that Mr. Snyder would provide a GOP response to Mr. Obama’s rally in Richmond.

Oh, and by the way, it’s only May.

Igniting the Natitude

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray struck a giddy, sartorial tone this week ahead of the Washington Nationals’ big three-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies, a rival whose fans make the trek down Interstate 95 each year to pack the ballpark in Southeast.

“We have a good team this year, and there may be other people out there who root for other teams — I’m sorry, move to that city,” the mayor quipped.

The Nationals, whose supporters in the past were overmatched by boorish Phillies fans, rechristened Nationals Park for the weekend as “Natitude Park” in a campaign to emphasize the team’s local support.

Mr. Gray encouraged everyone in the District to wear something red on Friday — nevermind the fact it is the predominant Phillies hue, too. And he notably committed his deputy mayor for public safety and justice, Paul Quander, to the effort.

“Deputy Mayor Quander said he’ll wear his red suit to work,” Mr. Gray said, to raucous laughter at the news briefing. “He didn’t deny it, did he? That’s right.”

Mr. Gray says his clothing edict is steeped in precedent. When Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was the mayor of Baltimore, he attended a meeting in the District decked out in a purple jacket to support the Ravens’ run in the NFL playoffs.

“I give him nothing but kudos for supporting his team,” the mayor said.

David Hill, David Sherfinski and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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