House speaker criticized in GOP e-mail campaign

The Political Game

Messages: Republicans are urged to send complaints to Busch and other lawmakers.

April 29, 2003|By David Nitkin and Stephen Kiehl | David Nitkin and Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

THE STATE Republican Party's targeting of House Speaker Michael E. Busch has extended beyond the General Assembly session.

The party is continuing its "call to action" alerts - mass e-mails to GOP supporters that lambaste the Democratic speaker and urge recipients to contact his office to register complaints.

The most recent message was delivered last week. "After Speaker Busch strong-armed his Democratic cohorts into voting against Governor [Robert L.] Ehrlich's legislation to fund education and ensure job security for state employees, Busch is now trying to blame our Republican Governor Ehrlich for any cuts in education or state employee layoffs," asserts the message.

"Call Speaker Michael Busch to say you aren't buying his `blame game' trickery."

The e-mails include a toll-free number for the speaker's office, and Web addresses for people to look up their local delegates and senators to contact them, too.

Previous messages were delivered this month during the session's closing days.

In one, the Republican Party pounced on a plan to improve the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis - a $27 million project the GOP has dubbed the "Busch Taj Majal." Construction has been delayed by the state Board of Public Works.

"Busch supports higher taxes to pay for his `pleasure palace,'" said the party.

Busch staffers say their office phones ring regularly after each call to action, although the rate is slowing.

Party officials, it seems, are unwilling to forgive Busch for demanding at least a one-year delay in the slot-machine gambling plan backed by Ehrlich. But will making him their No. 1 target weaken him, or raise his visibility and stature - putting him on the same level as the governor?

Ehrlich steals spotlight with highway expansion

When state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan unveiled plans last week to widen Interstate 95 by two lanes in each direction from the Baltimore line to White Marsh, he stood in front of a large poster that read, "The Ehrlich Solution: I-95 Master Plan."

Problem is, that master plan was begun under the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening. It even received approval from key federal agencies last year - before Ehrlich was elected. So how could the plan be promoted as "The Ehrlich Solution"?

Flanagan said the administration is moving quickly where Glendening dragged his feet: "We have had a lack of momentum and we have to work hard to build up the energy we need to address these problems."

A Flanagan spokesman said the plan was "dead on arrival" in the prior administration.

But a former Glendening official said the project was moving forward all along, and credit belongs to both governors.

The "Glendening-Ehrlich Solution." Don't expect to see that slogan any time soon.

Murphy continues crusade for medical marijuana

How far can Republican Donald E. Murphy ride a single issue that ranks low among the concerns of most Marylanders?

One of the state's most visible proponents of decriminalizing marijuana for patients with cancer and other illnesses, Murphy says he is considering a challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in the 7th District.

"I haven't said no," said Murphy, the former Catonsville delegate who is chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Party. "The conversations are starting."

Murphy said he is considering a run primarily because Cummings recently "came out against medical marijuana." A much-debated bill that drastically reduced penalties for severely ill patients who use marijuana passed the Assembly this year and is waiting to be signed by the governor.

"It was a big surprise," Murphy said. "I wouldn't mind the opportunity to make him explain in public his opposition to this bill."

Cummings, a popular Baltimore politician, represents a district that was altered heavily in the redistricting process to include many swing neighborhoods in Howard County. While Cummings won with 87 percent of the vote in 2000, he collected 74 percent last year - and the GOP doesn't want to give him a free pass next year.

Swaim-Staley overcomes `outsider' objections

Beverley Swaim-Staley, the former state transportation official who could not overcome objections to her "outsider" status to win the backing of the Baltimore County Council, has landed on her feet.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. wanted to make Swaim-Staley his chief administrative officer, but the council balked at the proposed $140,000 salary and the fact that she had no ties to the county.

Those concerns don't extend to Montgomery County, however. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan has hired Swaim-Staley as head of budget and finance, agreeing to pay the Annapolis resident the same $140,000 that was too much in Baltimore County.

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