Maryland delegate gets 60 seconds of fame in San Diego Harford man and family shown as representatives of small-town America

Republican Convention

August 13, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't 15 minutes of fame, but for Maryland convention delegate James Harkins, his 60 seconds before the Republican National Convention last night were close enough.

In a video vignette displayed on a pair of giant television screen grids, Harkins and his family in Harford County were introduced to thousands of GOP faithful in a video profiling a handful of delegates from across the country.

"It really is kind of nice," said Harkins, a state legislator and deputy sheriff in the county. "I'm still pinching myself that it was me."

The video segment, broadcast about 8: 50 p.m. EDT, portrays Harkins and his family as symbolic of the best that small-town America has to offer.

He is shown gardening, strolling around his town of Whiteford in a sport shirt emblazoned with the American flag, and smiling as he lifts up his 3-year-old daughter, Stephanie.

"As a police officer, every day on the street I see the direct correlation of crime and the declining values of our country," Harkins says in a voice-over. "I think it's important that we instill in our children values so that they know that anything good in life you have to go out and work for."

It was unclear last night why Harkins was selected over most of the nearly 2,000 other delegates in San Diego this week.

"What they told us was they wanted someone who was kind of a mainstream Republican," he said.

Harkins, 43, is a gun-rights advocate and abortion opponent. He has served in the Maryland House of Delegates for six years. He said his background in law enforcement may have contributed to his selection.

It took a day, he said, for a video crew to tape the minute-long segment.

"They started filming at 9 in the morning and finished at 6 at night," he said. "They took everything off the walls and messed the house up good."

While Harkins' video wasn't broadcast on network television -- CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox carried only an hour of the convention last night -- it was seen on C-SPAN, which is carrying the event gavel-to-gavel.

The video could help Harkins politically. He is considering a race in 1998 for the Harford County executive seat being vacated by Eileen M. Rehrmann, who is barred from seeking a third term.

"This is a wonderful opportunity and exposure for him," said Richard D. Bennett, a fellow convention delegate and former U.S. attorney for Maryland.

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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