Voters may have to tune in to more minstrelsy


Turns out Maryland is big enough for more than one guitar-strumming Democrat.

Frank Kratovil, the Queen Anne's County state's attorney running for Congress in the 1st District, has a band in his recent past. It appears to have been a back-burner thing compared to the Irish-rock ensemble a certain pol used to front.

Kratovil's campaign manager, Tim McCann, even had trouble summoning the group's name when I inquired about it the other day. (I'd asked after hearing Kratovil had taken the stage recently at the big conference for local government officials in Ocean City.)

"What do they call themselves?" McCann asked aloud before finding it on the candidate's Facebook bio: Jury's Out. (Somehow, I think O'Malley's March would be on the tip of any Martin O'Malley staffer's tongue.)

"I've been playing probably since I was 12," Kratovil told me later. "And up until about a year ago, we had a small little trio that played on Kent Island and various places."

That came to an end with the death of one of the band members. Tom Lavelle, an environmental lawyer who played percussion and had suffered from heart problems. He was 46 and was Kratovil's brother-in-law.

Kratovil had a chance to take his guitar out of mothballs this month, when he was invited to jam with the Steve Ports Trio at the crab feast held during the Maryland Association of Counties conference. He played just one number, which he described as "instrumental blues."

"It was sort of like an Allman Brothers jam. It just went on and on."

The appearance posed some political risk. The bandleader thing has cut both ways for O'Malley, making him a rock star to some, a party boy to others. For Kratovil, already mocked on campaign signs as O'Malley's tax-and-spend Mini-Me, it's one more way his rival can link him to the governor.

"That's just one of the many ways he and Martin O'Malley are the same," said Chris Meekins, campaign manager for Kratovil's Republican opponent, state Sen. Andy Harris.

Kratovil said he wasn't worried about taking a hit.

"I had a number of people who said they enjoyed it," he said. "My view is that people who are involved in music, oftentimes there's some depth there. They're not completely focused on simply politics. I think it's a good thing. Life's a balance."

A former rival turns mouthpiece

Two years ago, Peter Beilenson and Andy Barth duked it out - nicely - to represent the 3rd District in Congress. (Both lost out in the Democratic primary to John Sarbanes, who went on to win the seat in the general election.)

"We became very good friends during the campaign and served on 23 forums or fora together," Beilenson said. "Because he's Barth and I'm Beilenson, we sat next to each other. We could finish each other's sentences."

Now one is speaking for the other in an official capacity.

Beilenson, Howard County's health officer, has just hired Barth, a former WMAR-TV reporter, to be communications director for Healthy Howard, the county health care plan for the uninsured. It's a part-time job, so Barth will continue his freelance reporting for WTTG-TV, Washington's Fox affiliate.

"Howard County alone in the United States is providing health care for all," Barth said.

Big news. But don't expect to hear Barth report on that for WTTG. He said he'll cover "no Howard County stories at all."

Connect the dots ...

Several sugar-addled readers objected to my tsk-tsking Michael Phelps for appearing on the box of Frosted Flakes instead of more nutritious Wheaties. Reader Joni Daniels is one of many who wrote in saying kids will be able to resist the advertising pitch or survive the high-fructose corn syrup: "I loved Tony the Tiger too. I even ate cereals with sugar - since kids do need some energy in the AM to get a kick start (carrots don't cut it) but I never wanted to BE Captain Crunch and wear a naval jacket/join the navy/get a boat." ... Several readers were amused by foreign news media that had variously described Phelps' hometown as the "mean streets of Baltimore" and the "blue-collar mill town of Towson." JoAnn Moncure, a Realtor, writes: "We are planning to rename our 'hood' Rodgers Phorge. We expect a drastic rise in home values here due to our neighbor's recent success!" She added: "I hear he is moving into his new pad in Phells Point as well. If he can survive those MEAN STREETS of Rodgers Forge, he'll do just fine in the city."

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