THE NASTINESS that marked last year's state Senate race between incumbent Frederick Republican Alex X. Mooney and former Democratic Del. Sue Hecht has extended well past Election Day.
For the past year, Hecht campaign staffers have waged a struggle with the Maryland State Board of Elections to compel Mooney - the victor in a race marked by a campaign office burglary and Web-address squatting - to correct error-riddled campaign finance reports. They say that the state elections board has dragged its feet in its responsibilities, and that Mooney has attempted to intimidate Hecht's campaign treasurer into abandoning her questioning.
Mooney alleges that Hecht's complaints are politically motivated, and that the elections board "moved the goal posts on us" as he tried to correct the mistakes.
Since August last year, Hecht and her campaign treasurer have pointed out a host of problems with Mooney's reports. Numbers didn't add up. Scores of expenditures were categorized as "other," with no explanation. Some donors gave more than $100 in cash (rather than by check), violating state law.
The state Board of Elections forwarded the complaints to state Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who washed his hands of the matter in January after a review of the allegations. The prosecutor told the board in a letter that "we have found no evidence of fraudulent practice or intent to circumvent the election law."
Ross Goldstein, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the elections board, then demanded in March that Mooney correct his filings dating to January 1999. But by last month, Hecht campaign treasurer Kathy Rossen had reached her limit. Not only did it seem that Mooney was refusing to fix the mistakes, but she was deeply disturbed that the senator had called her and her boss at work, trying to get her to drop her questioning.
"I feel that Senator Mooney's call was completely inappropriate and was an obvious attempt to intimidate me," Rossen wrote to the elections board last month. "Senator Mooney apparently feels that without my inquiries, the Board of Elections would drop the whole matter. Unfortunately, I think that he is probably correct."
In an interview, Mooney said the telephone call was an attempt to establish a dialogue with Rossen. "For her to continue to try to create trouble for her senator, it's bad for Frederick County," he said. "They're sore losers. I don't know how else to say it."
On Aug. 11, after about a year of contention, Goldstein declared that Mooney's campaign finance problems had been fixed, but Hecht allies remain unsatisfied. If this is what it looks like after the election, just imagine what a rematch between the two politicians would bring.
National conservative radio broadcast features Ehrlich
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. received national exposure last week during a conservative radio broadcast from the Maryland State Fairgrounds that was short on substance but heavy on fawning.
Ehrlich was a guest of host Sean Hannity, whose syndicated three-hour show is heard on WCBM radio in Baltimore, and who also appears on the Hannity & Colmes show on Fox News. Hannity broadcast from Timonium on Aug. 26, when his guests also included Nixon administration tough guy G. Gordon Liddy and Iran-Contra figure Oliver North.
Hannity opened Ehrlich's segment by poking fun at the family of the governor's election opponent, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Ehrlich told the national audience that he won the race because "I knew this state better than the other candidate."
The governor also offered some advice to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bid for governor of California: "Be true to yourself, and don't let pollsters control your campaign."
Ehrlich revealed his familiarity with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democratic candidate for president, disclosing that he debated Dean during the 2000 election cycle. Ehrlich was a stand-in for George W. Bush and Dean portrayed Al Gore in a debate before a medical association in Washington, according to press secretary Greg Massoni. Ehrlich said he appreciated Dean's intellect and skills but that his opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq "should disqualify him from being president."
Hannity closed the segment by declaring Marylanders "lucky" to have a governor of "principle and character" such as Ehrlich.
State GOP picks Jewitt to challenge Hoyer in 5th
Maryland Republicans say they've settled on a challenger to 5th District Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House Democratic whip.
Bradley Jewitt, the former mayor of Berwyn Heights in Prince George's County, will run against Hoyer, said Eric Sutton, executive director of the state Republican Party. A major in the Marine Corps Reserves, Jewitt resigned as mayor this year when his unit was activated as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"He's definitely in. I think he's going to run full time for a year and a half," Sutton said, adding that redistricting has made the Southern Maryland seat more competitive for a Republican.