State House as Sesame St.

The Political Game

Target: An anonymous news release in Annapolis looks at some recent events with the PBS children's show in mind.

March 18, 2003|By David Nitkin and Ryan Davis | David Nitkin and Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

STATE HOUSE regulars are chuckling over an anonymous news release distributed last week under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s name.

"Sesame Street Comes to State Circle," it says.

"Gov. Ehrlich today announced that Count Von Count has been retained as special consultant to the governor's lobbyists. He will immediately take responsibility for tracking votes on key bills, backstopping former Sen. Marty Madden, who insiders confirm was overwhelmed with numbers.

"`The danger signals were there,' said a spokesman in the policy office. `We should have expected that 24 would be a reach.'

"Republican hard-liners who have been miffed at Gov. Ehrlich's appointments of Democrats to key administration positions were at first concerned to learn Ehrlich had made another attempt to `reach out to the other side,' this time with a left-wing media personality whose 15 years on PBS in Sesame Street make him more recognizable than most of the governor's own team.

"Opposition softened at news that conservative favorite Oscar the Grouch would be named as the next Secretary of the Environment."

For those who don't get it, Madden was responsible for lining up the 24 votes - a majority of the Senate - needed to confirm environmental secretary Lynn Y. Buhl. Buhl was defeated 26-21 last week.

Former state employee defends Swaim-Staley

A past employee has risen to the defense of Beverley Swaim-Staley, the former state Department of Transportation administrator whose name was withdrawn from contention as Baltimore County administrative officer when County Council support didn't materialize.

"It appears that Ms. Swaim-Staley's fatal flaw - in the eyes of Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz and like-minded acolytes - was that she was an outsider to the Towson political scene," writes former transportation staffer Len Foxwell, who also was a spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

"Apparently, aspirants to leadership in Baltimore County must be born, raised and schooled in Baltimore County - and apparently it helps to owe one's rise to the political wise men who have pulled the strings in Towson for decades. By refusing to give Ms. Swaim-Staley a fighting chance to prove herself, her tormentors made it clear that the good ol' boy network still has a place."

Kamenetz said the framers of the County Charter probably wanted an administrative officer to have deep county ties. The job carries a residency requirement, and the position serves as a second-in-command to the county executive. Executives must live in the county at least two years before elected.

"It was the intent of the framers that the people who serve the citizens of Baltimore County should not be carpetbaggers," Kamenetz said, adding that Swaim-Staley's residency took on added meaning because much of Executive James T. Smith's staff is from elsewhere.

"When the top three around him are not from Baltimore County, it should raise flags," Kamenetz said.

Dwyer gets in a last volley in lost delegation battle

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. learned last week that he and his fellow Republicans had lost their legal battle to gain control of the Anne Arundel County House of Delegates delegation.

He said that was it. He was conceding, and the messy, three-month struggle was over.

But it wasn't. The next day, Dwyer fired one last shot in a letter to Del. Mary Ann Love, Democratic delegation chairwoman and defendant in his lawsuit.

"I congratulate you on your win in court," the letter began. "Unfortunately, you will have to bear the guilt of what has been allowed to happen."

Five paragraphs later - after writing of corruption and "egregious injustice" - he signed the letter, "Constitutionally yours, Del. Don Dwyer Jr."

Dwyer and fellow freshman Republican Del. Herbert H. McMillan had sued Love over delegation voting rights granted to Prince George's delegates who represent a sliver of Arundel. A December maneuver - voted on by the delegation, including two lame-duck Democrats who had lost re-election - allowed Democrats to maintain a majority in the delegation.

The suit was tossed out in Circuit Court and the decision upheld by the Court of Appeals.

Focusing on new state job, not on politics, Ports says

Former Del. James F. Ports Jr. of Perry Hall has landed a high-level job in the Ehrlich administration, where he is an assistant secretary in the transportation department, overseeing engineering procurement, human resources, facilities, international relations and real estate.

"It's not an easy job," said Ports of the $112,000-a-year position. "It's very, very involved."

So does the gig mean that Republican Ports won't run against Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger next year?

"There's a lot of people asking me to do that," Ports said. "I'm not ruling anything out at this point. But right now, I'm not really focused on that."

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