A COMBATANT in the hottest U.S. Senate race in the nation will be making a brief stop in Maryland.
U.S. Rep. Rick A. Lazio, the Republican from New York, is coming to Baltimore's Little Italy to raise money at the invitation of a House colleague, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich of Maryland.
The occasion will be a reception June 21 at Aldo's Restaurant. Minimum contribution: $500.
Lazio, for those of you not paying attention, jumped into the New York Senate race after New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani dropped out amid health and marital problems.
His opponent, of course, is Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, perhaps the GOP's No. 1 fund-raising foil.
Ehrlich and Lazio have become friends during their six years in Congress. The two even talked this year about renting a house in Washington together.
Ehrlich said he has had no trouble peddling tickets to the fund-raiser. Rather, he said, the response has been "unbelievable."
"Clearly, regardless of who the opponent was, there's going to be a group of people opposed to Clinton, who resent Hillary choosing a state she has no connection to and beginning a run for the United State Senate," Ehrlich said.
But not all the money is coming from the anti-Hillary crowd.
"I think Rick's had one heck of a good start," Ehrlich said. "He's good on TV. He knows his stuff, and he's a handsome guy."
Ehrlich has promised to raise at least $50,000 for Lazio, a goal he says he will easily surpass.
Earlier this year, Giuliani came to Baltimore and raised a reported $25,000 at a breakfast.
Gun-safety legislation spurs pro-gun activity
General Assembly passage this year of a landmark gun-safety bill may be having an unintended consequence - helping pro-gun groups.
Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore is raffling off a .45-caliber semiautomatic tonight and is expecting to pull in more than $12,000 in proceeds. The handgun was dubbed the "Senate Bill 341 Hoffman special" after Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who unsuccessfully introduced legislation this year to ban the raffling of handguns.
"They've awakened a sleeping giant," said John H. Josselyn, the group's legislative vice president.
Jim Purtilo, who produces a pro-gun newsletter, said activity is climbing, thanks to the passage of the gun-safety legislation. "I can certainly say interest in the Maryland gun community is way up," he said. "Donations are up, and the readership is going up."
Purtilo and others hope the new gun law will spur contributions to a fairly new political action committee devoted to gun rights - Marylanders for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
The group is raising money to reward friends in the legislature and to punish foes. Its next event is a July 22 crab feast in Pasadena.
State GOP will meet in Solomons on weekend
The Maryland Republican Party convenes this weekend in Solomons for its annual summer meeting. Much of the focus will be on next month's national convention in Philadelphia, as several at-large delegates will be elected.
Ellen R. Sauerbrey and Richard Taylor, longtime members of the Republican National Committee, are expected to be re-elected with no opposition.
Meanwhile, the three men vying to be the next Maryland GOP chairman will try to build a little goodwill with that old political standby - the "hospitality suite," or open bar.
The three candidates are party Vice Chairman Michael Steele, former party Executive Director Christopher R. West and Baltimore physician and fund-raiser Ronald W. Dworkin. The vote for a new chairman will come this winter, when Richard D. Bennett steps down.
Townsend will again co-host Democratic event
For the second year in a row, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will play a major role in a gathering of the Democratic Leadership Council, the national "new Democrat" group.
Last year, Townsend played co-host at a DLC event with then Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. This year, Townsend's co-host will be a new Democratic star, Schmoke's successor, Martin O'Malley.
The DLC's fourth annual "national conversation" will take place July 14 and 15 in Baltimore and will likely attract a number of striving Democrats from around the country.
Last year, the same event was highlighted by a visit from President Clinton. Clinton was an early leader of the DLC and helped bring it to prominence in the early `90s.
No word yet on an agenda, but it's safe to assume there will be lots of talk about the importance of education, making government work and being tough on crime.