At PFLAG forum, not the usual subjects

political notebook

October 15, 2006|By Larry Carson

The questions at the PFLAG [Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] political forum for state legislative candidates in Owen Brown were a little different from the standard queries about controlling growth, traffic congestion and taxes.

Some candidates were asked whether they favor legalizing medical marijuana, for example. Other questions dealt with the touchy issue of same-sex marriage.

Only one of seven Republican candidates - delegate candidate Christopher Feldwick - attended the session from either District 12 or District 9A. Four of the six Democratic candidates from those two districts attended.

District 13 Republicans were represented by state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader and delegate candidates Mary Beth Tung and Loretta Gaffney.

Republican Rick Bowers, minister of the Living Stone House of Worship in Pasadena and chairman of Defend Maryland Marriage, later said he didn't attend to avoid sparking an emotional response over his support for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

At the forum, Feldwick said he has a sister who is gay and would agree with several District 12 Democrats in favoring enactment of a statewide law banning transgender discrimination.

Feldwick and Democratic state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer said they favor civil union rights for gay committed couples, though not outright marriage. Del. Elizabeth Bobo, Feldwick's opponent, said she favors full marriage rights for gays.

District 13 Republican candidate Tung said her scientific research work years ago on the AIDS epidemic gave her "great understanding of a lot of issues gays deal with."

County Executive James N. Robey, the Democrat who is vying with Schrader for her Senate seat, noted that he extended health benefits to the domestic partners of gay county employees.

On medical marijuana, a bill first championed by former Republican Del. Donald E. Murphy, Democratic Dels. Shane E. Pendergrass and Frank S. Turner, and Guy Guzzone all expressed support. Tung said she would support some sort of inhaler that would eliminate the hazards of smoking, if one could be developed. Robey, Schrader and Gaffney said they oppose marijuana's legalization for medicinal purposes.

David Ozmundson, a Democrat running for delegate in western Howard's District 9A, said that if marijuana helps the sick, it can be controlled like other prescription drugs.

GOP appeal to women

Howard County women were the focus of Republican interest last week, with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich making separate visits to speak to women's groups.

Ehrlich, a lawyer, spoke at an Ellicott City restaurant Wednesday to about 35 members of the Howard chapter of the Maryland Women's Bar Association, most of them women. She urged them to support the sitting judges that her husband, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., appointed - not to mention the governor himself, and Steele as well.

The governor, she said, has almost evenly divided his judicial appointees among Democrats and Republicans but always has chosen qualified people.

"There was this big fear about picking judges," she said, urging the local lawyers to support two of those appointees in Howard - sitting Circuit Judges Richard S. Bernhardt and Louis A. Becker, who both attended.

Separately, the "Steele's Wheels for Change" campaign bus, adorned with a larger-than-life photo of Steele, brought the Republican U.S. Senate candidate to a restaurant just off Route 100 Tuesday morning for the first local meeting of a group called Women for Steele.

About 30 women and a few men gathered for a $5-per-person breakfast to hear Steele explain why they should support him instead of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee.

Cardin, he told the women, represents "old Washington," a place of calcified ideas and notions, while he embodies a vision of "new Washington" where innovation and new methods will prevail.

"The new Washington is where we all want to be," he said.

What he's primarily trying to do, he said, is listen to "real people who don't put their concerns in red boxes or blue boxes. They're not conservative or liberal."

Correction

In last week's column, Republican Christopher J. Merdon's comments at a candidates forum about the Sierra Club's endorsement of Democrat Ken Ulman were incomplete.

Merdon's full comment was: "The Sierra Club has never endorsed a Republican candidate for county executive."

The Sun regrets the error.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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