State GOP's two-party bash

The Political Game

Fund-raiser: Many Democrats were among the 900 to join Ehrlich at the Republicans' very profitable dinner.

October 07, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

THE MARYLAND Republican Party had its most profitable night ever last week, thanks to a GOP governor in Annapolis and the big money that is following him.

The party's 13th annual Red, White and Blue dinner attracted a crowd more than four times larger than in past years, its ranks swelled by many Democrats who are investing in what increasingly looks like a two-party state.

"I understand there are many Democrats in the room tonight," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told the 900 guests at the Inner Harbor Hyatt who helped the GOP raise more than $500,000 in so-called soft money, which can be used on salaries, polling and party-building activities. "Thank you for being here."

Ehrlich marveled at his many new friends. Trial attorney Peter Angelos bought a table, elevating himself to "Chairman's Council" status. Former House Speaker and now lobbyist Cas Taylor was working the ballroom, as was Baltimore power broker Willard Hackerman, former state Sen. Clarence Mitchell III and lobbyist Alan Rifkin.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele drew attention to someone he said was another reformed Democrat: his sister Monica Turner, formerly married to boxer Mike Tyson.

"Tonight is the largest and most successful fund-raising night in Maryland Republican Party history," gushed state GOP Chairman John Kane.

Before Ehrlich was allowed to speak, first lady Kendel Ehrlich was invited to the microphone to make another pitch for cash. She asked the crowd to dig deeper into their pockets and pony up for a fashion show fund-raiser Thursday at the Baltimore Convention Center for the Ehrlich re-election campaign.

Perhaps all that talk of money made people giddy, because conversation soon turned to whether Ehrlich had the potential to go on to higher office.

The night's featured speaker, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia -- a member, along with Ehrlich, of Congress' Republican Class of 1994, which wrested control from the Democrats for the first time in decades -- said Ehrlich had the stuff to move on.

"You have someone who is capable to go on to higher office than the governor of Maryland," Davis said.

`Olive branch' that doesn't quite bury the hatchet

In the escalating feud between two Baltimore County politicians, Del. Robert A. Zirkin has sent a lengthy e-mail to Sen. Paula C. Hollinger that he calls an "olive branch" but reads more like a litany of charges against a future political opponent.

Zirkin wrote the e-mail last week, and sent copies to House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Zirkin said he wanted the Assembly's presiding officers to know of his concerns sbout Hollinger, a fellow lawmaker from the 11th Legislative District, which includes Owings Mills and Reisterstown.

"Over the past weeks, I, along with my friends/staff/family have been the recipients of your numerous attempts to throw mud in my direction and get the press to do so as well," the e-mail begins. "As you can see, it is not working since, as you know, they [sic] are baseless and no one is really appreciating your actions."

While the e-mail does not list the details, Zirkin said in an interview that Hollinger has filed an elections complaint against him, alleging that one of his fund-raising solicitations was improper.

"Unfortunately, a good bit of time is spent dealing with the various fires you try to set around me like you have done to so many good public servants in the past," Zirkin wrote in the e-mail. "Your constant mud-throwing efforts are falling on deaf ears, as they are all without merit. Again, you know that. But you keep having your legislative aide file them anyway, in hopes of using them in your next ugly campaign. (By the way, having your legislative aide do opposition campaign research is illegal since she is on your legislative payroll just in case you were truly curious about ethics)."

In a brief interview, Hollinger said she had not read the e-mail and was not prepared to discuss its contents. But she said Zirkin "is like a little cockroach," and added, "He's not exactly truthful."

Zirkin included his cell phone number at the end of the e-mail. He said he wants Hollinger to call him, so they can put their problems behind them -- an unlikely scenario. Right now, he said, "there is no dialogue."

State finances not only topic on Busch's mind

Ehrlich, Busch, Miller and other state fiscal leaders are scheduled to dine tonight at Government House, a rare meeting that is supposed to focus on state finances. Those invited say it is a summoning of the people who traveled to New York City this year to make a pitch to Wall Street rating agencies, a group that included Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.

But Busch said he has another topic he wants to discuss. He is upset about Ehrlich's plan to establish new rules for the purchase of land for preservation. Busch said the General Assembly should play a major role in setting environmental policy, and that the Board of Public Works should not be used for that purpose.

"It is a very important and powerful board, but it is not a policy-making board," Busch said. "The reason they send 188 of us to the General Assembly is for those kinds of decisions."

Politics not on the menu at KKT thank-you picnic

Et cetera ... Those invited to former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townend's Ruxton home Saturday for a thank-you picnic said the gathering was light on politics, and that Townsend did not give a speech or discuss a desire to run for office again. Speculation has been swirling that Townsend is interested in running for U.S. Senate, possibly in 2006, when Paul Sarbanes' term expires. ... Former Berwyn Heights Mayor Bradley Jewitt, a Republican, has formally entered the 5th District congressional race, hoping to unseat incumbent Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip. ... Silver Spring businessman John R. McKinnis II, 29, announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Rep. Albert R. Wynn in the 4th District.

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