Democratic get-together about unity

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SEN. PAUL Sarbanes and several Democratic members of Congress, as well as county executives and state lawmakers, met in Annapolis yesterday for an organizing meeting of a group seeking to develop unity and a cohesive message for the state Democratic Party.

"It's something I call a 'state advisory committee,'" said Terry Lierman, the new state party chairman. "It is a way to bring together local government, state and federal all together to discuss the most important things in Democratic politics."

Such meetings have been rare in Maryland, occurring mainly in election years when politicians are plotting coordinated campaign events. But with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's 2002 win and the state GOP capitalizing on it with unprecedented fund-raising, Democrats see the need to get more active.

"I hope you are starting to see some more activity from the Democratic Party," he said.

It seems they developed some second thoughts

The Ehrlich administration has backtracked from its contentious hire of a former Republican political candidate with strong anti-government views to a $58,876-a-year position in the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Last week, the agency hired James Crawford of Charles County, who ran for the House of Delegates in 1998 and 2002 and has espoused eyebrow-raising positions on government's role in economic development and minority contracting.

According to the Gazette newspaper of the Washington region, which broke the story, Crawford recently took down a Web site that publicized his views and contained the following quotations:

"Government is not a producer, it is a consumer, and artificial governmental consumerism does not produce long-term productive jobs. ... Finding a job of sufficient pay is dependent upon the favor of God and the hard work of the individual."

Crawford said he was opposed to "such things as racial hiring quotas, teaching 'black' history month, minority set-asides in contracts or hiring practices, Miss 'Black' America beauty pageant, the 'black athlete-of-the-year award' and the like."

The state Democratic Party pounced on Ehrlich's hiring of Crawford after the Gazette's first article.

"The governor's embrace of this man is a sign that Ehrlich has become a captive of the most extreme elements of his party," said Lierman, the state party chairman.

By late last week, Ehrlich staffers had decided that Crawford was not a good fit.

"He is no longer on DBED's payroll, as of Friday afternoon," department spokesman Dyer Bell said yesterday.

Committee finance reports deemed criminally late

The Maryland state prosecutor yesterday announced criminal charges against 53 treasurers and chairmen of campaign committees who did not file required finance reports with the state Board of Elections, including Tommie Broadwater Jr., an ex-state senator who attempted a 2002 political comeback.

First elected in 1974, Broadwater was Prince George's County's first black state senator, but gave up his seat in the early 1980s after he was convicted on federal charges of laundering food stamp money. He served four months in prison.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh said he was following up on a list of 160 delinquent accounts forwarded to him last year. More than 100 committees responded and paid more than $57,000 in late fees, he said. But charges - which carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and $25,000 in fines - were filed in Anne Arundel District Court against representatives of the remaining committees.

Rohrbaugh said yesterday he did not think any of the treasurers or chairmen - who worked for a variety of candidates for local and state offices throughout the state - represented current-office holders.

A new drummer's beat he's unlikely to march to

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley traveled through fresh-fallen snow to Annapolis last weekend - a block away from the governor's mansion - for his band's two Saturday night gigs at the Rams Head Tavern on West Street.

Between songs, O'Malley told a late-night crowd of 200-plus that he and his wife, Katie O'Malley, "respect each other greatly" but differed over whether it was smart to travel through the snowstorm.

While O'Malley - a likely candidate for governor - gets plenty of mileage as the front man for the Irish band, O'Malley's March, Ehrlich appears unwilling to cede the mantle of rock star wannabe to his rival.

The governor announced last week that his wife purchased a drum set for him for Christmas. The governor said he has never displayed musical talent before, but he's willing to learn.

"I'm a frustrated drummer," Ehrlich said. "And I have a few frustrations in my job."

Sun staff writers Jamie Stiehm and Ivan Penn contributed to this article.

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