Some see acts as partisans going awry

The Political Game

Damage: Pre-election tensions in Howard County are blamed for the destruction and theft of Bush signs, and a Kerry backer now suspects a political motive behind a shot fired into his home.

October 05, 2004|By David Nitkin and Larry Carson | David Nitkin and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

TENSIONS OVER next month's presidential election might have reached a boiling point in an unlikely place: polite, prosperous Howard County.

There, lawn-sign swipings and other mundane tactics might have given way to more violent political expressions. Early Wednesday, a bullet was fired through a window of the Ellicott City home of Anthony McGuffin, 51, an active Democrat and former candidate for Congress and the state House of Delegates.

McGuffin's house sports a Kerry-Edwards campaign sign, along with one for U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings on the front lawn.

Howard county police are investigating the shooting, and no one knows the motive of the shooter, who directed a bullet into a lighted second-floor window about 2 a.m.

But the incident follows the burning of a large Bush/Cheney sign in western Howard last month - one of a series of Republican signs destroyed or vandalized that prompted the arrest of an Ellicott City man who was accused of destroying one. Democratic Party leader Wendy Fiedler said the man charged has no party affiliations.

McGuffin said he saw a man pouring red paint on a Bush sign recently and stopped to persuade him to quit.

Kerry/Edwards signs have disappeared along Centennial Lane too, he said.

"It's crazy. There's no doubt about it," McGuffin said about the sign destruction.

McGuffin, a teacher and musician, said he had just left his desk at his Main Street home when he heard a loud noise. He couldn't find the source after a quick investigation, so he went to bed. The next morning, he found a .45-caliber bullet on the stairs and saw a hole in the staircase wall. He lifted the shade in the front room and found broken glass and a damaged frame.

The incident has shaken him, he said. But his political leanings are unchanged.

"Nothing scares me more than four more years of Bush," he said.

Democrats offer up joking sibling rivalry

Big families have become a badge of honor in Maryland politics.

During a speech last weekend at a summit of progressive Democrats in Columbia, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a likely candidate for governor, included some biographical information.

He described how his father immigrated to the United States and joined the military, and how his parents instilled solid Democratic values in their 13 children.

"They didn't just work in the community. They did other stuff at home. A lot of other stuff," he said. The crowd guffawed at the slightly ribald reference.

Speaking next, state Democratic Party chairman Isiah Leggett told a similar tale. He said that he, too, was one of 13 children in his native Louisiana.

Then came Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"I didn't know we were going to talk about how many children we had in our families. In our parish ... the Enrights had seven. The Rileys over at Blessed Sacrament had 16. We were a small Irish Catholic family of only six," the mayor said. "A lot of the other Irish Catholic families in our parish thought we were Lutheran spies."

Governor turns his words to fund-raising advantage

Some critics thought Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was suffering from a self-inflicted wound when he called the concept of multiculturalism "bunk" and "crap" during a radio interview earlier this year. Immigrant groups and Democratic lawmakers were furious.

But Ehrlich never backed down. And now he's turned what many viewed as a gaffe into a selling point in his latest direct-mail fund-raising appeal.

"Without your help, my left wing adversaries will continue in their attempts to block my common-sense agenda," Ehrlich's wrote in his appeal. "Just look at how hard they fought to kill my slot machine revenue plan for the 2nd time! Or, consider the way that the biased media has demonized my pro-unity, pro-America stance on the importance of encouraging common American values and culture."

Along with the letter, Ehrlich sent a "2004 Ehrlich Membership Card," and asked donors to give at least $25, and "either put [the card] in your wallet, or display it where you can see it."

However, one person who received the letter will be doing nothing of the sort. Del. Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat and speaker pro tem, said she won't be sending the governor any money.

Far East beckons Ehrlich, state business leaders

Ehrlich will be leading a trade mission to Asia this month, according to the state Department of Business and Economic Development's Web site. The governor and a contingent of state and business officials will depart Oct. 16, making stops in Singapore and Shanghai, China, before returning Oct 22.

"The focus of the mission is to tap into commercial opportunities for Maryland companies," the site says, adding that this will be the "the first visit ever by a Maryland governor to Singapore."

"Maryland businesses will also benefit from the exposure and excitement of the first visit to China by a Maryland's governor in 24 years," the department said. The cost of the trip and a roster of attendees was not available yesterday.

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