2 more set to join race for Senate seat

The Political Game

Candidates: A political activist and a university professor prepare to further crowd the field.

September 06, 2005|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

WITH LABOR DAY over, a crop of political hopefuls is ready to plunge into the race for U.S. Senate in Maryland.

Kevin B. Zeese, a political activist from Montgomery County, is seeking the nominations of three minor parties in Maryland. By unifying supporters of the Green, Populist and Libertarian parties, he hopes to provide an alternative to whomever emerges as Democratic and Republican nominees.

"The two major parties are bought by corporate interests," said Zeese, 49, who was press secretary to Ralph Nader during the 2004 presidential election. "Everybody knows that it is true, and people are sick of it."

Zeese has been active in progressive causes for three decades. Most recently, he has been working to raise concerns about the electronic touch-screen voting system in use in Maryland and is advocating the use of a voter-verified paper trail to accompany it.

He is a critic of the nation's drug policy and says that Maryland has discriminatory drug laws; the percentage of minorities incarcerated for drug offenses is higher than the national average.

"The drug war has failed," said Zeese, who was a member of former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's Working Group on Drug Policy Reform. "Law enforcement should be at the edges. Treatment should be at the center."

Zeese said he would work to promote more employee-owned businesses, to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor.

With more state residents registering to vote as independents or as members of minor parties, "It's a good time for the Maryland population to have an alternative," he said.

He said he intends to formally announce his candidacy next week.

Toward the end of the month, Allan J. Lichtman, a political history professor at American University, is scheduled to announce his candidacy.

"Allan will be running on the model of progressive professor Paul Wellstone's path-breaking victory in Minnesota," said his wife, Karyn Strickler, in an e-mail message to potential supporters.

"Lichtman is the candidate with the savvy, experience and backbone to win the primary, take on the Republicans in the fall campaign and challenge policies that take from working- and middle-class Americans and give to George Bush's corporate backers."

Lichtman is a regular commentator in the Gazette newspapers of suburban Washington, and he ran unsuccessfully for Congress from Montgomery County in 1988.

Lichtman will join a Democratic field that includes Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren and socialist A. Robert Kaufman.

Suggestions pouring in on spending of surplus

Lots of ideas are surfacing for what to do with the state of Maryland's $600 million budget surplus, and state employees are offering their best arguments for why they deserve a healthy cut.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents more state workers than any other bargaining unit, is calling for a $4,000 across-the-board increase for all state workers.

That amount, union leaders say, would restore the average state workers' salary to the buying power it had in 1986. Since then, state workers have received no pay raises in six budget years, and raises that fell below the rate of inflation nine times, according to an analysis by the union.

Workers got a $768 flat-rate raise last year and a 1.5 percent increase in the current budget year. But health care costs are going up, and, as of July 1, workers who paid $5 for a prescription are paying triple that amount or more.

The decision on what to do with the budget surplus rests largely with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who will allocate the money in the fiscal 2007 budget proposal he releases in January. Ehrlich is contemplating using some money to supplement the state's debt payments to reduce the state portion of property tax bills - which were increased in 2003.

Ideas are coming from elsewhere. Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. wants more money for school construction. Others want to spend the money for Hurricane Katrina relief.

Gilman alumni golf outing receives a change of course

One of the best-known alumni of the Gilman School Class of 1975 has agreed to host a 30th reunion dinner party at his home.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will be opening the doors of Government House, the governor's mansion in Annapolis, to his Gilman chums Oct. 1.

The weekend festivities also include a golf outing, the location of which was recently changed.

An initial notice about the reunion told Gilman alums to save the date of Sept. 30 for a round of golf at the Elkridge Club.

The private club with strong Gilman ties - several Gilman trustees are also Elkridge members - was the subject of media scrutiny this summer after the governor held a fundraiser there. The club has never had an African-American member in its 127-year history.

But after the attention to Elkridge and its practices, the location of the reunion golf event has been changed. Class of 1975 members are now invited to play in the general alumni tournament, to be held at the public Waverly Woods Golf Club in Howard County.

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