A dynasty on wheels

With an electric scooter, the Conaways add to a campaign fleet that already boasted a shrink-wrapped bus

June 09, 2010

The Conaway political dynasty seems to be building a fleet of unusual campaign vehicles.

Last year, the family of four officeholders bought a 10-year-old Chevy Astro van and tricked it out with a $2,700 "wrap" emblazoned with images of the whole gang: Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway Sr., City Register of Wills Mary Conaway, state Del. Frank Conaway Jr. and City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway.

This year, it's a $1,000 Stand-N-Ride electric scooter.

Frank Sr., who like Frank Jr. and Mary is up for re-election this year, said he plans to zip around city neighborhoods on the three-wheeled scooter.

"I'm doing it to catch people's attention, so they'll know I'm in the neighborhood," Conaway, 77, told me. "Put it on the van, ride the van to a neighborhood — I'll take the Stand-N-Ride off and ride through the neighborhood standing and waving and passing out literature and whatnot."

Frank Sr. added: "It's one of my better ideas."

One that came to him in a dream.

"I dreamed about it," the court clerk said. "Things come to me in my dreams. I wake up and say, 'This is what I'm going to do for the campaign.' "

Frank Sr., who bought the Stand-N-Ride with campaign funds from a company in California, expects to be the primary scooterer. His son and daughter might give it a try. But Mary isn't likely to take it out for a spin, her husband said.

The scooter goes up to 15 mph and is considerably greener than the van, which gets 10 to 15 miles per gallon.

It arrived, unassembled, about a month ago. Frank Sr. put it together and has been practicing in his neighborhood. But it is not quite ready for the campaign trail. The court clerk wants to decorate it first.

"I might box it in to look like a car with me standing in the middle," he said.

He knows he'll plaster the cardboard "car" with campaign signs, but he hasn't worked out all the details.

He needs to sleep on it.

Who stole the chicken?

A group of seventh- and eighth-graders at Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School wrote a play called "The Day Baltimore Ran out of Chicken."

"It grew out of a simple writing exercise," Patrice Hutton, who ran a writing workshop funded by the Open Society Institute, wrote on the OSI website. "Each student received a note card with an item written on it, and they were to imagine that Baltimore had run out of that item. Baltimore without tires? Sidewalks? Sugar? Churches? Bus drivers? How about chicken? They read their stories aloud, and I challenged them to take it up a notch, thinking catastrophically. … In the end, they decided that a fictional Sheila Dixon steals all the chicken."

Terrell Kellam, 14, who will be a freshman at City College in the fall, came up with the idea of making the former mayor the heavy. He also got to deliver the best line in the play, which I saw performed Wednesday in the school gym.

"First she steals the gift cards," said Kellam's character, Tom the newscaster. "Now she steals the chickens."

Walking it off

Steve Blair is attempting to walk the 115 miles between his home in Roland Park and his parents' house in Easton.

And no, this is not one of those charity walk-a-thons.

"A friend was asking me if I was doing it for a cause," said Blair, 42, who produces TV commercials, used to do a weekly food segment on WBAL-TV called "Pulp Kitchen" and still writes a the food blog pulpkitchen.com. "I'm doing it to raise awareness for my man-[breasts]. I need to lose a little weight. I do a lot of cooking and I write about cooking, and it's caught up with me. I try to bake bread whenever my wife's not looking."

He set off Monday morning and covered 30-something miles that first day, making it to Havre de Grace. Day 2, he did 21 miles, which got him to Chesapeake City. Day 3, in the rain, just 13 to Georgetown.

"Every day my mileage is getting a little lower," said Blair, who spends the night at B&Bs along the way, soaking in bathtubs with Epsom salts. His wife meets him there, so he doesn't have to lug baggage.

He hopes to make it to Easton by Friday night, even if that means "crawling down my parents' driveway."

Power ties

Vinny DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, is the subject of a new book, "The DeMarco Factor," by Michael Pertschuk, a former Federal Trade Commission chairman. One of the better blurbs on the book jacket comes from gun-control advocate Sarah Brady: "My old adversary, the National Rifle Association, spends millions of dollars on slick campaigns and has lobbyists in $4,000 suits, but Vinny beats them with pocket change while wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh tie."

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

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