Query hits dead end

The Political Game

Debate: Maryland's Democratic leader won't take a stand on the Intercounty Connector.

October 21, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

IT'S HARD to pin down Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Isiah Leggett on the Intercounty Connector.

Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane tried his best last week, when the two chiefs provided evening entertainment by going head to head at a conference of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce in Cambridge.

Kane snickered before the event that he was ready to take the gloves off, after showing deference to Leggett at previous joint appearances.

So toward the end of their debate, Kane insisted that Leggett take a position on the $1.7 billion connector highway that is to link Interstate 270 with Interstate 95, providing access from the Washington suburbs to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The GOP head noted that in his years on the Montgomery County Council, Leggett recused himself from votes on the road - which is a top priority of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"Now you are no longer in office. Where do you stand?" Kane demanded.

Leggett said he avoided votes on the issue earlier in his career because he owned property in Silver Spring that abutted a potential route. He later bought 70 acres in Burtonsville, he said, which is near a different proposed route, one that follows a more northerly track.

"I still have not taken a position on it," Leggett said. "At some point in time, we need an east-west road. ... I think it's a foregone conclusion. ... It's going to be built."

But Leggett said he would still be fighting against a route that runs near his home.

Similarly, Leggett dodged a question from the audience about who he thought would be the Democratic nominee to run against Ehrlich in 2006, although he indicated he thought it was already a two-man race between Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"I love Irishmen," Leggett said. "I have a strong Irishman in Montgomery County and one in Baltimore City."

Fund-raising letter counts Busch as Friend of Bob ...

With apologies to Groucho Marx, House Speaker Michael E. Busch probably doesn't want to belong to a club where Bob Ehrlich decides who the members are.

Imagine Busch's surprise when the Annapolis Democrat opened his mail earlier this month and found a fund-raising letter from Ehrlich inviting him to become a "charter member of my Maryland trust."

The mailing also contained a "Maryland Trust Certificate of Membership," a nifty fund-raising technique for the governor's re-election bid through which he is trying to corral "my inner circle of supporters."

The certificate was inscribed with the following: "Let it be known to all who bear witness that Michael Busch as a Republican leader and representative of Annapolis, has been named a Charter Member of Governor Bob Ehrlich's Maryland Trust with all due benefits and recognition."

The letter calls Busch - the first-year speaker who killed Ehrlich's slot machine bill and has generally been a formidable Democratic foil to the Republican governor - "one of my most loyal supporters" and asks him to send a check for $300 to seal his membership in the trust.

"Michael, I don't know where I would be without your support and frankly I don't want to know," the letter said.

Busch said yesterday that he had not sent any money to the Bob Ehrlich for Maryland Committee, which authorized the mailing. But he said he was glad to receive the literature.

"It's the most specific plan I've seen from the governor since we took office together," Busch said.

"I will admit that the certificate is suitable for framing, but we don't have room in the office right now," he added.

... and another Bob starts his campaign in Arbutus

A second Republican Bob is hoping to tap the magic of Arbutus.

Nineteen months after Ehrlich launched his campaign for governor from his working-class boyhood home, Anne Arundel County Clerk of the Circuit Court Robert P. Duckworth is heading to western Baltimore County today to kick off his campaign for Congress from the Third District.

Duckworth becomes the second Republican seeking to unseat veteran Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin; Del. David G. Boschert of Anne Arundel County is also seeking the seat.

"Arbutus is a great place to jump-start my campaign," said Duckworth, a Crofton resident, through a representative yesterday. "The other Bob, the one we love as guv, got his start right here too."

Duckworth is planning stops today at Paul's Restaurant in Arbutus, followed by speeches at the State House and the Elkridge branch library.

Boschert said yesterday he wasn't impressed by Duckworth's tour.

"I've already been to Arbutus. I just didn't make a big deal of it," he said. "I don't need to do theatrics to get votes."

Fifty-five percent of voters in the 3rd District, which includes parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, voted for Ehrlich, Duckworth notes. Republicans consider the seat the most competitive among the six in Maryland now held by Democrats.

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