Convention Notebook

Election 2004

The Republican Convention

August 31, 2004

You're fired

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. tapped the generosity of his former Princeton football teammates and the Manhattan-based clients of Maryland State House lobbyists yesterday evening, raising $250,000 for his re-election campaign in a fund-raiser at a swank restaurant.

Tickets were $4,000 for a private reception and $1,000 for regular admission to BLT Fish, a restaurant with bamboo wood floors and a glass ceiling and whose entrance is marked only with an Asian symbol. "Our fund raising is incredibly strong," Ehrlich told the crowd, without disclosing the total he has raised for his re-election effort to date. "The message we are sending is we're here, and we are staying."

Ehrlich pointed out some of his football teammates in the restaurant, which was also rich with Annapolis lobbyists, including J. William Pitcher, Gary Alexander and Lee Cowen.

But generating the most buzz was Kwame Jackson, a finalist on the reality show The Apprentice and a Harvard M.B.A. who is building a development in Prince George's County. Jackson said he was a guest and not a donor, adding that he was a Democrat who was supporting the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

"But business is nonpartisan," he said.

Delegates blaze the way

Political conventions always include an element of regimented choreography, but Oklahoma's delegates are taking the idea of uniformity to extremes.

The state's 79 delegates and alternates will wear matching blue blazers bearing a patch of their state emblem, in a show of unity they hope will make them stand out.

"We just wanted to all make a statement and be alike," said Bunny Chambers, a committee member from Oklahoma City.

The delegates will wear khaki pants with their blazers, which display an American Indian war shield, a peace pipe and an olive branch on top of the word "Oklahoma."

"It's a symbol of solidarity," said Harold Hite, another delegate. "And it looks pretty cool."

The blazers have drawn a slew of compliments, the Oklahoma delegates said, and they may also make the state's contingent seem deceptively large.

"On the way in [to Madison Square Garden], people say, `Wow, you have a large delegation,' because they notice when they see our jacket," said Scott Williams. "We're actually pretty small, but it makes us stand out."

And another fashion statement

Secret Service agents who staff the metal detectors at Madison Square Garden keep boxes to hold items they've confiscated -- items not permitted in the hall for security reasons.

The list of permitted and prohibited items is too complicated to remember, so they keep a list. Body lotion in a soft tube is OK. Body lotion in a hard plastic tube is not.

"It could become a projectile," explained one agent, who is not allowed to give his name.

Another agent said he could not believe how many reporters had accidentally left their laptops at the checkpoint and gone on their way. Standing with two homeless computers, he said, "How far are they really going to get without noticing they don't have these things?"

A close examination of one of the boxes of confiscated goodies found about three dozen umbrellas, a handful of body lotions, several aerosol hairsprays and a banana.

Aerosol cans are prohibited, one agent said, because "somebody could take a match and turn it into a blowtorch. We don't want that."

The agent said he has been surprised that about as many men as women were trying to come through with hair spray.

"Usually, it's more women," he said. "But I guess these TV guys need to, you know, fix themselves up."

Just another regular guy

A reporter, starved for news, decided to chat up the man leaning on a wall outside Madison Square Garden and wearing a "Tutunjian for Mayor" shirt.

The lesson: At a convention, stories hide everywhere.

The man, Daniel P. Crawley, explained that Harry Tutunjian, the son of an Armenian immigrant and owner of an auto body shop in Troy, N.Y., was recently elected Troy's mayor. Crawley, the deputy mayor, joined his boss for the convention and seemed most excited about the parties.

As a conventioneer from New York, Crawley was able to score a pass that gains him entry to a list of hot-ticket galas to be attended by Gov. George E. Pataki of New York.

As for Tutunjian, the mayor soon strolled out of the convention hall to join the conversation. He was wearing khaki shorts, a golf shirt and topsiders -- on the casual side for the convention. But it was hot outside.

As a Republican, winning an election in heavily Democratic Troy was challenging, the mayor said. He was propelled to victory in part because voters saw him as a regular guy.

"It would be a tremendous honor to be compared to the president," Tutunjian said. "But people see him as approachable. Really, it's the same way they see me as approachable.

Sun staff writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis, David L. Greene and David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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