At 84, still on the attack

The Political Game

Pamphlet : Republican Ross Z. Pierpont's many unsuccessful runs for office haven't diminished his zeal. The new target of the only announced major-party gubernatorial candidate is Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

February 19, 2002|By David Nitkin and Howard Libit | David Nitkin and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

ROSS Z. PIERPONT has run for office unsuccessfully about 15 times in the past four decades, but a pamphlet he is distributing as part of his latest campaign shows that the 84-year-old retired surgeon has lost none of his edge.

While Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend stays above the fray and Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. ponders whether to enter the ring, Pierpont, a Republican and the only announced major-party candidate for governor, has laced his gloves and is swinging wildly.

"Save our State from the costs and consequences of more Kennedy incompetence" is the title of the 18-page booklet that Pierpont distributed to news organizations last week.

Pierpont calls Townsend's chief of staff, Alan H. Fleischmann, "the babysitter," and says his "princely" salary of $125,497 is probably the envy of Michael Sarbanes, son of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and a Townsend policy adviser who earns $103,980 a year.

"Michael Sarbanes and Uncle Ted Kennedy are political bargains," Pierpont writes. "When Kathleen needs help from Washington insiders, she has not one, but two Senators as near as her telephone. ... Her staff totals 17 salaried, health-care paid, pensioned employees to make sure the lieutenant governor always looks good in her function as Gov. Glendening's walk-on substitute. Salaries alone cost us more than a million dollars a year!"

The pamphlet goes on to track the history of the Kennedy family, with sections headlined "Dollars Rain in from British Whiskey to Hollywood Movies," "Camelot Myth Exposed!" and "Kennedy had led the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust."

It calls Townsend's efforts in juvenile justice and crime-fighting a failure. "People of Maryland, awake!" concludes the message. "Don't let our state become Massachusetts downsized."

Pierpont said yesterday that he stood behind every statement in the pamphlet, and sees his mission as educating voters about Townsend, her family and her record.

"After they know, my responsibility is covered," he said.

Townsend could not be reached for comment.

Working to `decouple' some state, federal taxes

When is a promise to cut taxes not really a promise to cut taxes? When it's made by the federal government and the taxes they're trying to cut go into Maryland's treasury, say state legislative leaders.

Last week, leading Democrats vowed to find a way around Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposal to delay the final 2 percent of Maryland's five-year, 10 percent cut in personal income taxes.

"We made a promise on the income tax cut, and we will meet it," said Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a statement echoed by fiscal leaders in both chambers.

Then legislative leaders introduced their set of ideas for Maryland's budget crunch - including raising $33.6 million by blocking a federal deduction for college tuition and a federal repeal of estate taxes from applying to the state portion of income tax returns.

Unlike many other states, Maryland's income taxes are generally tied to federal taxes, and Taylor hopes to split them - an idea known in government jargon as "decoupling."

"The federal government is making a decision to cut our revenue, while leaving more social needs for us," Taylor said, explaining the difference in his view of the federal cuts and the state-passed income tax reduction. "The federal government can cut federal taxes, but it's up to the General Assembly to make decisions about cutting state taxes and revenues."

Maryland politics enters California governor's race

Maryland politics made its West Coast debut last week, as a footnote in the heated contest for governor of California.

Maryland GOP Chairman Michael S. Steele wrote a letter to his California counterpart, Shawn Steel, asking that the wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan stop raising money for Democrats.

Nancy Daly Riordan is a Democrat and has contributed $3,000 to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend since 1999, according to state election reports. After receiving the letter, the California chairman said he made a "gentle appeal" to the Riordan family to suspend assistance to Democrats.

`Maryland! My Maryland!' in M.D.'s health care twist

So far, schoolteachers seem to be the only lyricists that legislators take seriously when debating whether to change the state song.

James Ryder Randall, author of "Maryland! My Maryland!" of 1861, was a teacher, after all. So was John T. White, who in 1894 wrote a gentler version extolling Maryland's geography - the version lawmakers are considering as a replacement. In 1951, a Baltimore County teacher offered a new song, as did a Baltimore teacher in 1982.

Maybe the problem has been that school kids don't vote.

Health care workers do, however. So lawmakers might consider lyrics by Dr. Steven R. Daviss, who composed what he calls the "Maryland Healthcare Song."

The opening stanza:

The State's heel is upon my sore, Maryland!

Its scorch is on my hospital door, Maryland!

Avenge the dearth of mental health care for the poor

And homeless who fleck the streets of Baltimore,

And heed the cries for funding more, Maryland! My Maryland!"

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