Taking aim at Bush, Ehrlich


MARYLAND Republicans are strategizing in New York this week about how to re-elect President Bush this fall and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2006.

Meanwhile, Maryland Democrats are at home, plotting the opposite.

A group of liberal Democrats is organizing the Maryland Progressive Summit, scheduled for Oct. 2 in Columbia.

Del. Peter Franchot of Montgomery County, one of the organizers, said he hopes to capitalize on Democrats' anger toward Bush this year and channel it toward the governor two years hence.

Featured speakers will include Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Topics for the summit: "How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are Ruining Maryland's Environment," "How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are Underfunding Education and Leaving Children Behind," and "How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are Reducing Investments in Our Future."

The state's not behind U.S. 50 sign, says Pipkin

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan told a state GOP convention last year that his department was getting more Republican by the day.

Could that be why there is a flashing road sign bearing the name of the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate?

A large, mobile traffic warning sign along eastbound U.S. 50 on the Eastern Shore has been urging motorists to vote for state Sen. E.J. Pipkin in his effort to unseat incumbent Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski.

Pipkin says his friends at the transportation department aren't doing him any favors. The sign, he said, is owned by a private company and is on loan to his campaign.

Busch letter ends hope for slots referendum in fall

A letter from Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Bush last week drove a stake through the heart of a November referendum on slots.

Busch wrote Ehrlich to express disappointment that the governor had rejected his call for a referendum after encouraging the idea this year. The speaker pronounced prospects for a ballot-box vote dead.

Ehrlich spokesman Paul E. Schurick said the administration was happy to move on to other issues.

Busch also said he hoped Ehrlich would consider competitive bids for slot licenses if the issue returns.

"In light of ongoing investigations in Maryland regarding possible illegal campaign contributions, House leaders are very concerned that there not be any hint of impropriety in the granting of these lucrative monopolies," Busch wrote, referring to a preliminary FBI inquiry into more than $200,000 in donations from racing groups controlled by track co-owner Joseph A. De Francis to national legislative committees run by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

The speaker said Ehrlich "encouraged further discussion" of a slots referendum during a private dinner several months ago but has "rejected the resulting proposal without any discussion of the specifics."

Busch also countered Ehrlich's assertion that a constitutional amendment for slots would serve a political goal.

"Pressure to expand the number of slots locations and machines will begin immediately after a bill is enacted as it has in every jurisdiction that has approved slots at tracks," Busch wrote. "Only a constitutional amendment will slow that process and make the lobbying more transparent."

Nursing home group plans get-out-the-vote effort

Senior citizens are considered among the most active and engaged voters, but a nursing home organization wants to boost their involvement even more.

Mid-Atlantic LifeSpan is launching a "2004 Senior Vote Project" aimed at getting 40,000 senior citizens who reside in more than 250 LifeSpan facilities to the polls, after educating them about health care and affordable housing issues.

LifeSpan's acting president is Sushant Sidh, once a political operative and deputy chief of staff to former Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

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