Townsend discounts vice presidency talk

The Political Game

Candidate: She says she wants to make impact as governor, not as vice president.

August 13, 2002|By David Nitkin and Sarah Koenig | David Nitkin and Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

SURE, IT'S premature, but it's reality: If Kathleen Kennedy Townsend wins the race for governor, her name will be catapulted onto the list of possible Democratic vice-presidential candidates in 2004.

Her iconic maiden name would be part of the appeal. She's also of the right gender to balance a ticket of such male aspirants as Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts or John Edwards of North Carolina.

Sure, she'd be lacking in experience. And she'd be coming from a smallish, liberal-leaning state not known for launching politicians onto the national stage. But she'd get attached to a few trial balloons nonetheless.

Does this prospect appeal to Townsend? Apparently not. She threatened to toss a cup of water at a reporter who asked her about it last week.

"I've worked for eight years as lieutenant governor. I want to be governor. I want to make an impact," Townsend said, pledging she would not leave office if elected.

"You don't flit around looking for new places to land," she said. "It's not me. It's not the way I work."

Ehrlich sticks to lead in race -- by a bumper

We don't know yet if he'll win the election, but Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appears ahead on one front -- the battle to get his name on more automobile fenders than his opponent.

On Central Maryland roads, Ehrlich for Governor bumper stickers seem to be far more prevalent then their Townsend counterparts.

One reason may be that Ehrlich is giving his away, while Townsend's are for sale.

The home page of Townsend's campaign Web site, www.friendsofkathleen.com, contains a link to an "e-store." Available for purchase: bumper stickers at $1 each or $45 for 100. Yard signs start at $4 but are cheaper in bulk, while U.S.-made, "union-printed" T-shirts can be purchased for $12.

A company, DemStore, which collects all proceeds, runs the online store.

"The campaign does not benefit from any of the sales," said Steve Schwat, who started DemStore in 1985. "They do not collect one thin dime from any of it." At the same time, the campaign isn't spending any money for the publicity such sales generate.

Nonpaying customers still have access to some Townsend merchandise for free. Campaign volunteers are willing to deliver signs and bumper stickers to anyone who asks, they say. They'll even put them up.

RFK cable movie to air 16 days before primary

Here's what won't be happening Aug. 25: the release of a made-for-TV movie about Robert L. Ehrlich, father of the gubernatorial candidate.

What will be happening Aug. 25 -- just 16 days before the primary election? At 8 p.m., the FX cable channel will air RFK, the story of the political rise and 1968 assassination of Townsend's father, Robert F. Kennedy, as played by British actor Linus Roache.

"The more I worked on the film, the more I loved him as a man. I think he found conscience. I think he found it for real. He was more than a political animal in that sense. He was a humanitarian in the greatest sense of the word, and a voice we would like to hear today," Roache told Entertainment Tonight.

Contrary to what conspiracy theorists might imagine, Townsend said she knew nothing of the movie, whose cast of characters includes Ethel Kennedy but none of the couple's 11 children.

Townsend said she does not plan to watch it.

Divining voter allegiances proves to be tricky business

No matter how confidently politicians and their consultants claim to understand this democratic mystery, there is no predicting what lies in the hearts of voters.

Take Ehrlich's trip last week to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, the state's largest Islamic center. He was invited by some Republican members, who showed him around and introduced him to the congregants gathered for midday prayers.

His appearance thrilled Shuaib Leigh, who is 41, a businessman, a Glen Burnie resident, an immigrant from Sierra Leone -- and, until last week, an unequivocal Democrat.

"The mere fact that he came here, it shows that he cares," he said. "This time, I'm going to try this man!"

Some Republicans in the crowd weren't as enthusiastic. Ahmed Alkowsi, originally from Saudi Arabia but now of Timonium, asked Ehrlich what he thought of the government indefinitely detaining people it deems suspicious without charging them with a crime.

Ehrlich responded by saying that U.S. citizens should not be held but that his sympathy decreases in direct proportion to the stability of a detainee's immigration status.

"Wishy-washy," said Alkowsi, 44, who runs a small shipping company. "I'm very disturbed. The new administration did not do justice to these people. And I voted for George Bush."

Will he vote for Ehrlich? "I don't know," he said.

Lobbyists keeping an eye on fiscal-structure panel

The Commission on Maryland's Fiscal Structure ought to have a second name: the Lobbyist Employment Committee.

During the commission's first meeting last week, it seemed as though every high-powered lobbyist in the state was in attendance (and even quite a few of the "white hat" lobbyists from nonprofit groups).

All were there keeping an eye on whether the commission -- charged with coming up with enough revenue to pay for the state's future needs in education, health care and transportation -- will target their clients for new taxes or fees.

With most of the lobbyists surely billing multiple clients for their 2 1/2 hours of watching the committee work, one lawmaker joked that tickets ought to be sold for $1,000 each, with money going to help pay for Maryland's $900 million projected deficit.

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