Belly up to the bar, Honorable Members

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February 11, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

James King got into politics to help small businesses. And already, the new delegate from Anne Arundel County seems to have given a boost to one: a bar called The Rockfish, which is suddenly mobbed on Monday nights.

King owns the bar. And the crowds? Fellow delegates, senators, legislative staffers and lobbyists, who arrive courtesy of a free shuttle bus King started running a few weeks ago between the State House and the bar.

"They've kind of dubbed it `Lawmaker Mondays,'" said King, who in addition to transportation offers drink specials, free food and live music. He has even made the place cigar-friendly on Mondays at the request of several stogie-chomping colleagues who, presumably, won't be voting "yea" on the smoking ban bill. That has brought in an extra 50 to 70 people some nights.

But King says it's not clear that he's making money on the deal after he figures in the cost of the shuttle bus, the "soft rock" band, the discounted drinks and the free shrimp quesadillas.

"The return on that investment will take time to build," he said.

No doubt, though, that the Rockfish shuttle has already boosted the 32-year-old freshman's political profile. Maybe when the Republican wants to bend his colleagues' ears about government burdens on small-business owners, he'll get a friendlier reception.

"I think a lot of politics is about personal relationships," King said. "Certainly when you're new, it's important to build relationships, and this has certainly helped."

And you can belly up to this one, too

There is a long tradition of lawmakers adjourning to a bar after Monday sessions. Not that they've put in a long day. The session starts at 8 p.m. to accommodate those returning, after the weekend, from far-flung home counties.

Monday in Maryland's House and Senate is little more than glorified homeroom - announcements, birthdays, special guests and the like, The Sun's Andy Green tells me. They wrap up in about 20 minutes, then go drink.

For years, the gathering spot was O'Brien's, a pub near the City Dock. Manager Donnie Bailey said that despite the Rockfish shuttle, plenty of lawmakers still find their way to O'Brien's.

"We still get a lot of delegates," he said.

Climbing for the cure

Tomorrow in Argentina, Joel Shalowitz expects to climb Aconcagua, which, at 22,841 feet, is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.

Back in Baltimore, where Shalowitz is part owner of Corks restaurant, lots of people will follow his progress through the Internet, at www.climbforhope.blogspot.com. Among them: Dr. Leisha Emens, a Johns Hopkins oncologist who is trying to develop a vaccine to treat and prevent breast cancer.

Shalowitz is part of a group, called Climb for Hope, that raises money for Emens' research through mountain-climbing expeditions. Founded by Baltimore Jewish Times publisherAndrew Buerger, the group has raised more than $150,000.

Emens is grateful for the help and doesn't seem to mind that funding for her potentially lifesaving research depends, in part, on the kindness of climbers.

"That's just kind of the way of the world," she said.

Emens was one of 21 climbers who tackled 19,5000-foot Cotopaxi in Ecuador last month. Already in "reasonable" shape, she joined a gym, hired a personal trainer and worked out for two hours a day, five or six days a week, for two months prior. That's in addition to running two clinical trials for patients with stage IV breast cancer.

Besides raising research dollars, the expedition helped her identify with her patients.

"It's very symbolic in terms of really putting yourself out there and trying to have a goal. Altitude sickness, GI bugs that can affect you. It's symbolic for what people with cancer go through every day."

On the blog, Shalowitz writes: "If all goes well, I will be summiting on or about the same day my cousin Sara finishes her chemo treatments."

Connect the dots

Political wonks, mark your calendars now: The Associated Press reports that PBS TV and radio host Tavis Smiley will moderate a forum with Republican presidential candidates Sept. 27 at Morgan State. ... When did Stephanie Rawlings Blake become Stephanie Rawlings-Blake? Baltimore's new City Council president never used to hyphenate. But her name has been in the paper a lot more lately - and not the way she liked. "We have added the hyphen because some newspapers have referred to her as `President Blake,'" said spokesman Shaun Adamec. "Everyone knows her as `Rawlings Blake.' It's an honest mistake, but it's actually her full last name. We just want people to know they're reading about the same person." ... Progressive Maryland is pretty pleased with the new gov, who supports a living-wage bill and $400 million in school construction. So pleased, in fact, that the group sent out an e-mail last week titled: "O'Leadership!" ... A reader wants to know: "Why do we never have `conservative leave' days in Maryland when it snows?"

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