Thinking of you, Doug Duncan

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September 22, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

When Doug Duncan announced that he was clinically depressed and dropping out of the governor's race, some talk radio wags weren't buying it, saying that Duncan must have been pushed out by Democratic Party bigwigs to clear the way for Martin O'Malley. But Official Maryland was all, "Get well soon, Doug." Until now. Gov. Robert Ehrlich's campaign just went on the record with the Duncan-took-a-dive theory. How do you raise an issue this touchy, since it implies that Duncan was faking it? "Team Ehrlich" found a delicate way to tackle it: in a fund-raising letter that offers anyone who donates $500 or more an autographed Bob Ehrlich football.

"Now this won't be just any football," the letter says. "It will be a token of appreciation from our campaign, thanking you for your generous support at this crucial time. The Governor has said that we are in a fight for the future of Maryland. Our well financed opponent and his liberal puppeteers (Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker Mike Busch) in Annapolis will stop at nothing to defeat us. They even saved Martin O'Malley from what was sure to be a vicious primary fight so he could train all his resources on us."

What happened to the "great deal of empathy" Ehrlich expressed months ago for Duncan's "very serious condition"? Back then, Ehrlich called his erstwhile competitor "a gentleman." What's he calling Duncan now? Faker?

"We're not suggesting any type of conspiracy theory," Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said. "This is a competition against not only Martin O'Malley but the Democratic monopoly. The Mikes have an agenda that was served by Doug Duncan's departure."

Duncan spokesman David Weaver said that Duncan - recovering at home from recent hip surgery - was not pushed out by Miller or Busch and that his depression was real.

"Doug Duncan exited the race for governor the same way he entered it, with honesty and with class," Weaver said. "He didn't seek to hide his illness or be anything other than completely forthcoming with the voters."

I only reached one of the alleged puppeteers, Busch, who said: "Who would believe any of that? It's unfair to Doug Duncan and his family."

Just at the beach -- in Frederick

So who gave Bob Ehrlich a lift from Ocean City to Frederick the other day in a Beech 300 twin-engine plane? The campaign wasn't saying. But The Sun's Andy Green found the plane is owned by Forest Hill Management LLC. The Harford County company and its sister firms have donated at least $2,350 to Ehrlich this election cycle.

Forest Hill owner John R. Martin Jr. said the governor didn't get a ride in the plane. "It's not true," he said, adding, "We were down at the beach." But the plane, and its VIP passenger, were spotted in Frederick, not Ocean City.

Spokeswoman DeLeaver said the campaign rented a plane at "market rate." She wasn't saying how much that was. But we can read all about it in the next campaign finance report.

And they call it puppy love

The Maryland Democratic Party is mocking Michael Steele's puppy commercial just like Ben Cardin would: with an earnest recitation of the Congressman's puppy-related legislative record, complete with bill numbers.

"Marylanders would rather hear Michael Steele's positions on health care, education and Social Security, but if Steele insists on limiting the debate to puppy policy, Ben Cardin can play in that pound, too," state Democratic Party spokesman Artie Harris said in a news release detailing "Cardin's Puppy Powered Record":

Sponsored HR 3718, the Puppy Protection Act, to improve conditions at pet stores and puppy mills. Co-sponsored HR 2669 and HR 425, strengthening the Animal Welfare Act. Co-sponsored HR 817, strengthen rules related to animal fighting. Co-sponsored HJRES 429 and HJRES 458, designating "Be Kind to Animals and National Pet Week."

Steele spokesman Doug Heye said Democratss are missing the meat of Steele's spot: "In the ad, he talks about two specific proposals that will change Washington. That's getting rid of last-minute earmarks and banning all gifts from lobbyists. Unfortunately, because Ben Cardin has been in Congress so long, he has a disconnect with those ideas."

Connect the dots

FreeRepublic.com celebrates its 10th anniversary tomorrow with a dinner on Capitol Hill, where FReepers will reminisce about taking down Dan Rather, launching the Dixie Chicks boycott and hammering Bill Clinton, spokesman Kristinn Taylor said. What about spreading mayoral gossip? Taylor didn't mention that as a high point. But among those planning to attend the festivities: Joe Steffen. Says the Prince: "I hope to maybe run into MD4Bush there." ... Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway hasn't even officially won re-election in his primary in Baltimore, where they're still counting votes. But that hasn't stopped him from looking ahead. Conaway announced yesterday that he is forming an exploratory committee for a possible run for mayor.

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