Political Notebook

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

October 13, 2006

Ehrlich, O'Malley agree to live debate

In an unexpected last-minute compromise, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley agreed in principle yesterday to a live, televised debate tomorrow to air on WBAL-TV in Baltimore and Maryland Public Television, campaign and station officials confirmed yesterday.

Many details are being negotiated, but officials said the debate will begin at 7 p.m. and last one hour. It will be hosted by the Maryland League of Women Voters.

A week ago, no debates had been scheduled and the candidates appeared increasingly unlikely to reach a compromise. Now, the candidates will tape a debate with WJZ-TV in Baltimore tomorrow afternoon to air at 7 p.m. Monday. They will then take part in the second debate later tomorrow.

John Fritze

Property seizures criticized

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s re-election campaign has begun trying to dissuade voters from supporting Martin O'Malley by accusing the Democratic mayor of orchestrating seizures of homes and businesses in Baltimore.

In pamphlets mailed throughout Maryland, the Republican incumbent's campaign warns homeowners that O'Malley would use the same policy to seize homes and businesses statewide if elected governor.

"Martin O'Malley is taking people's homes and businesses and giving them to his politically-connected developers," the mailer states. "Martin O'Malley has a history of taking private property ... and YOUR home may be next. With Martin O'Malley as mayor ... no one's home is safe."

The mailer then states: "Vote NO on Martin O'Malley."

The mailer accurately cites several news articles that detail the mayor's use of condemnation procedures to close and move businesses and homes to make way for development.

The city has used the seizure procedure known as eminent domain - upheld last year by the Supreme Court - to condemn blocks throughout Baltimore for several projects, most notably the biotech campuses associated with local universities in East and West Baltimore. The actions, portrayed as part of the city's resurgence, often spur controversy when residents and businesses do not want to move regardless of how much money they receive for relocating.

In East Baltimore, the city chose several minority developers with connections to O'Malley to rebuild a rundown neighborhood north of Johns Hopkins Hospital as part of a $800 million effort centered on biotech business centers.

O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said Ehrlich's campaign was using desperate "scare tactics" because the mayor is ahead in polls less than four weeks before the Nov. 7 election.

O'Malley aides also point out that the state will have to make extensive use of eminent domain to seize homes and businesses in the path of the Intercounty Connector. Ehrlich faced protesters yesterday at an ICC groundbreaking who raised that point.

"They're going to get paid full value, obviously, full market price," Ehrlich said.

Doug Donovan

Steele releases new `plan,' ad

Running as a Republican in a state where Democrats hold a 2-1 edge in voter registration, U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele is taking shots at both parties in a new television advertisement and campaign plan.

Throughout his campaign, Steele has cast himself as an agent of change in Washington who can see problems with both parties. His comments in the advertisement and a new "Plan for Change," both of which debuted yesterday, were his most specific yet.

"On energy," Steele writes in the 21-page document, "Republicans only want to help the oil companies and Democrats would rather beat up Republicans than get anything done."

"On education - Republicans made a program that teaches to a test, and Democrats protect bureaucracy at the expense of our kids."

"On poverty - Republicans won't raise the minimum wage, and Democrats won't cut any slack to the job-makers working to grow businesses and end the poverty that still plagues too many Maryland communities. On immigration -- both sides care more about scaring people than solving the problem."

In the television advertisement, now running in Baltimore, Washington, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, he adds that "some Republicans forget folks still climbing the ladder. Cardin and Democrats just raise their taxes."

Neither the advertisement nor the plan, both of which were available on Steele's campaign Web site, identify his party affiliation. Steele delivered a prime-time address at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York and was recruited by the White House to run for the Senate. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, White House adviser Karl Rove and other high-ranking party members have helped to raise funds for his campaign.

The Plan for Change includes proposals to eliminate gifts by lobbyists -- including meals, tickets to sporting events and travel -- to members of Congress, to require that all legislative earmarks bear the name of the lawmaker responsible and to double the length of time a former member must wait before becoming a lobbyist to four years.

The plan also reiterates Steele's campaign positions on education, health care, the economy, energy, the environment, public safety and national security.

Matthew Hay Brown

Steele, Cardin to speak today

Senate candidates Michael S. Steele and Benjamin L. Cardin are scheduled to address a luncheon meeting of the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce today at the Four Points Sheraton, 1910 Dual Highway. Cardin, a Democrat, is scheduled to speak from noon to 12:30 p.m., followed by Steele, a Republican, until 1 p.m.

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