WOULD-BE opponents of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are understandably envious of the advantages she holds as she seeks to ascend from lieutenant governor to governor.
There's the undeniable power of her maiden name - as close to political royalty as it gets in the United States.
There's the national fund-raising network and the influence of family members such as her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
And then there are the perks of incumbency.
Because she is lieutenant governor, Townsend's name appears on billboards, brochures and newspaper advertisements throughout the state, almost all of it paid for with taxpayer money. Her name greets visitors at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and her travel schedule takes her to every corner of Maryland, ostensibly on official business.
During much of the past year, it was hard to avoid her voice.
No venue has given Townsend more exposure than a radio commercial she recorded for the Vehicle Theft Prevention Council.
In it, Townsend says she is speaking from an impound lot, a place she says she hopes the rest of us never have to visit. Auto theft would be a Fortune 500 business if it were legal, she says. She then reassures listeners that if we all do our part, "it doesn't have to be this way," and tells about the state's vehicle theft reward program.
If it seems as though the commercial ran everywhere, that's because it did. According to theft prevention council records, Townsend's spot ran 12,016 times from July 2000 to March this year. It ran on stations in Washington suburbs and in Western Maryland. It ran in Baltimore, in Annapolis and on the Eastern Shore. It even ran in Northern Virginia and Delaware.
"That was our intention, to get as much coverage of our reward program as possible," said W. Ray Presley, council executive director.
Presley points out that other politicians have had their turn. Gov. Parris N. Glendening was featured in the council's 1997 commercial, and Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was supposed to get his this year, but lawmakers scaled back auto theft funds and the announcements will no longer air.
Unlike other public service announcements, the Townsend spots weren't relegated to 4 a.m. They ran in prime slots donated by member stations to the Maryland/District of Columbia/Delaware Broadcasters' Association.
The theft council paid the association $150,000. In exchange, it received ad time valued at $929,872, according to documents.
In other words, if other potential candidates such as Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger or Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan wanted equivalent time, they'd have to pay nearly $1 million.
It's the type of exposure that other prospective candidates can only dream about.
Sauerbrey helping GOP attract female voters
Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the former Baltimore County delegate who twice ran for governor against Glendening, is playing a leading role in a national Republican initiative to increase GOP votes among women.
"Women have been the reason we have lost elections, and very close elections," Sauerbrey said during a conference call last week as the Republican National Committee announced its outreach effort during a meeting in Boston.
Sauerbrey lost to Glendening by fewer than 6,000 votes in 1994.
President Bush won 43 percent of the female vote nationwide last year, up from the 38 percent captured by Bob Dole in 1996 but down significantly from the totals of Ronald Reagan. GOP leaders think Bush's policies on tax cuts and education should make him more popular with women.
"His issues are right with women," said Ann Wagner, co-chairwoman of the RNC. "Our job as a party is to get our message out." Part of the effort includes a new Web site, www.winningwo- men.org.
Republicans in Maryland and elsewhere say they can make the most headway in education. "In Maryland, there is certainly no issue that women care about more than schools," Sauerbrey said.
Hopkins ties are turned against N.Y. candidate
In the rough-and-tumble world of New York City politics, financial-services magnate Michael Bloomberg is learning that the Johns Hopkins ties that are an asset in Baltimore can be turned against him.
Bloomberg is chairman of the Hopkins board of trustees, and he also is running for New York City mayor as a Republican. The New York Post reports that GOP primary opponent Herman Badillo, former chairman of City University of New York, has said Bloomberg should bear some responsibility for oversight of the procedures that resulted in the death of an asthma study patient.
On the campaign trail, Bloomberg has refused to answer questions about the death, the Post reports.