State Digest


August 30, 2006

3 candidates seek role in TV debate

Three lesser-known Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate are staging a protest today, hoping to be included in the live televised debate scheduled for tomorrow.

Of the 18 candidates whose names will appear on the primary ballot, only the two front-runners will face the cameras in the League of Women Voters' debate: U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and former national head of the NAACP.

"It is beyond irony that the League of Women Voters, founded by suffragist leaders dedicated to opening American politics to the excluded, should now take the lead in closing the political process in Maryland," Allan Lichtman, an American University history professor running for the seat, wrote in a letter to the president of the national league.

Lichtman, businessman Josh Rales and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen hope to be included in the debate.

Lu Pierson, president of the Maryland chapter, has said that her group is following guidelines set in October. They said that only "significant" candidates, defined as those having attained a "minimum of 15 percent support in an independent statewide poll prior to July 1, 2006," would be invited. Only Cardin and Mfume met that standard. A poll released this week by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies puts Cardin's support at 43 percent and Mfume's at 30 percent. Rales was third at 6 percent.

Pierson said all candidates have been invited to a forum Tuesday in Baltimore that will not be televised.


Maryland: Bay Bridge

No recommendation on possible new span

A state task force that conducted a yearlong study of whether another bridge should be built across the Chesapeake Bay released its final report yesterday without making a recommendation.

The panel of state and Eastern Shore officials concluded that the issue is "complex, controversial and compelling," and that more study is needed before a new bridge can be considered.

The group was appointed by the governor after state planners predicted that traffic on the two Bay Bridge spans would increase 40 percent by 2025. Twelve-hour delays would become commonplace if nothing was done, engineers warned.

The task force held public meetings and hired engineers to examine sites for a possible new bridge. Its report details the options, including a northern crossing, another span at the current site or a new crossing at one of two sites to the south.

State Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said the study was worth the time spent on it even though no recommendations were made. He said the engineering reports give communities a sense of where a new bridge could be built.


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