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LT. GOV. MICHAEL S. Steele has no plans to resign his office if and when he formally enters the race for U.S. Senate.

"I will be the lieutenant governor until January 2007, when Bob Ehrlich is inaugurated for his second term," Steele said in a recent radio interview.

To be sure, there is no legal or logical reason why Steele should step down before 2007. State and federal laws do not prohibit holding one office while seeking another. Not only would he forgo a good-paying job if he resigned, he also would give up his staff and the ability to travel the state making appearances that increase his visibility.

And his schedule has been packed with that kind of event. Within a few hours last week, Steele spoke at a U.S.-Africa business summit in Baltimore, a ceremony for the Port of Baltimore and a minority business program at the University of Maryland's University College in Adelphi.

Ehrlich said in his biweekly radio show Saturday that he encouraged Steele to enter the Senate race after determining that the contest to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes is winnable for a Republican.

"When it's a friend, particularly a political partner, you never want to stand in the way of potential success," Ehrlich said. "My bottom line was, 'Can you win?' Because if I thought Mike was going to have a difficult time winning, if I thought the odds were less than 50-50, my opinion would be, obviously, stay."

"My hardheaded look led me to believe that he can win. So with that, I said, 'Mike, you've got to go for it. In life, you've got to go for it.'"

Ehrlich, a former congressman, said he would help Steele get up to speed on national issues.

While one of the more intriguing open questions in Maryland politics is whom Ehrlich might pick as a running mate to replace Steele, the lieutenant governor said such a decision is months away.

"I talked to the governor about that. And he was very frank and direct and said, 'I'm not thinking about that right now,' " Steele said. "He has a lieutenant governor serving at his side - that's me. When he is ready to launch his re-election campaign, at that time he will put on the table the name of an individual to join him in that race."

Names in the rumor mill to replace Steele include state schools superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, both of whom would have to switch political parties to run on a GOP ticket with Ehrlich; and state housing secretary Victor L. Hoskins.

O'Malley launches Web site for campaign volunteers

Mayor Martin O'Malley launched a new Web site designed to connect campaign volunteers to events in their area and to help them sign up more of their friends.

Running since last week, the Web site ( does not contain a declaration that the mayor is a Democratic candidate for governor. But it does accept campaign donations. ("This is going to be an expensive race. Every dollar matters," the site says.) It also contains a link so that supporters can send e-mails to their friends, telling them why they back the mayor.

O'Malley campaign manager Jonathan Epstein said a prime feature of the site - designed by Blue State Digital of Washington - is the speed with which it connects visitors with campaign coordinators in counties, finding work and events for them while their enthusiasm is high.

"The days of having storefront campaigns are over," Epstein said.

GOP delegates in Western Md. unite to form 'victory fund'

A group of lawmakers is trying to squelch the prospects of any Democrats hoping to get elected from the state's right-leaning western counties. Seven Republican state delegates have formed the Western Maryland Republican Victory Fund to cement the party's dominance in the region.

The slate has scheduled a fund-raiser for Saturday featuring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, The Frederick News-Post reported.

Of the 22 senators and delegates who represent Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, three are Democrats.

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