GOP dodges the fireworks

The Political Game

Incumbents: At the state convention, the instigator of a resolution to ban the `incumbent protection plan' douses the debate - for now.

November 18, 2003|By David Nitkin and Howard Libit | David Nitkin and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

HE HAD planned a bang, but former Del. Donald E. Murphy left his post as chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Party last weekend with a whimper.

Murphy - best known as an advocate for decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal use - had submitted a contentious, debate-inducing resolution for a vote at last weekend's state Republican Party convention.

The party, he and Harford County Republican chairman William G. Christoforo said, should abandon its policy of endorsing incumbents in primary elections.

The resolution was guaranteed to touch off a firestorm in a year of congressional races in which Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle is challenging Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th District, and state Sen. Richard F. Colburn of the Eastern Shore is running against Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in the 1st District.

The incumbents and challengers, as well as many of their supporters, attended the Annapolis convention - and were ready to argue.

But at the last minute, Murphy withdrew the resolution. The fireworks fizzled.

Murphy, who resigned as county chairman to join a lobbying firm with a former Democratic delegate, said he wanted to avoid the appearance of singling out Bartlett and Gilchrest. He predicted the resolution would return at next spring's convention, after the primaries were past.

GOP Executive Director Eric M. Sutton said he saw no reason for the party to alter what Chairman John M. Kane has called "an incumbent protection plan."

"We follow President Bush and the Republican National Committee's lead in supporting incumbents," Sutton said. "Now the Maryland Republican Party is a relevant party, so we are following the lead of the other successful parties in the country who have this policy."

`Bush Doctrine' idea key, note-worthy in speech

The convention's keynote address was delivered by Ken Mehlman, a Maryland native who is chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Mehlman delivered a standard-issue speech that highlighted the accomplishments of the Bush administration.

If the national Republican Party meets its objectives a year from now, Mehlman said, it would mark the first time since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House 80 years ago that the GOP has re-elected a president and returned majorities to the House and Senate.

But Mehlman tailored his remarks to his audience somewhat, notably in discussing the "Bush Doctrine" of proactively ousting terrorists in foreign lands.

"As long as George Bush is president," Mehlman said, "the front lines in the war on terrorism will be Baghdad and Basra, not Baltimore and Bethesda."

O'Malley offers up a comic comparison

While Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan was raising $50,000 in a downtown Baltimore fund-raiser last week, where was Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley?

In Annapolis, celebrating the environment and testing out his latest tough attack on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The mayor was the final speaker at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters John V. Kapler Memorial Award Dinner. The $125-a-ticket fund-raiser, - which honored Montgomery County Sen. Brian E. Frosh for his environmental activism - featured John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff, as the keynote speaker.

O'Malley compared the Ehrlich administration to television's Seinfeld, and how Jerry Seinfeld used to describe the show as "being about nothing."

"The same might be said about the Ehrlich administration," O'Malley told the crowd of more than 200 environmental supporters. "This administration is about nothing."

Et cetera ...

Ehrlich's parents, Robert L. Ehrlich Sr. and Nancy Ehrlich, will be staying with the governor at the official residence in Annapolis for at least a week while their Arbutus rowhouse is being remodeled. "The governor's boyhood home, and their home of over 40 years, is being renovated," said Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for the governor who would not comment on reports that Ehrlich was paying for the work.

Rep. Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who became a household name during the state's 2000 presidential recount, is scheduled as a featured guest at a fund-raiser tomorrow night for Baltimore County Del. Pat McDonough.

Also tomorrow, Sen. Gloria Lawlah of Prince George's County will be sworn in as president of the Women Legislators of Maryland.

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