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Schaefer says he will seek re-election

Ending months of speculation, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer announced yesterday that he will seek re-election, setting the stage for a competitive three-way Democratic primary.

Schaefer, 84, has held the comptroller's post for the past eight years. The former governor and Baltimore mayor has been an ally of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on the three-member Board of Public Works, the panel that approves state spending.

But he has also used his appearances on the board to utter remarks that have offended immigrants, AIDS victims and, most recently, women, when he ogled a young Ehrlich staffer earlier this year.

Schaefer said continuing to chase down tax delinquents and advancing technology in his office would be his priorities if re-elected, according to a news release.

This is the first election in which the comptroller faces serious competition in the Democratic primary.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, 62, announced last month that she will run for comptroller. Also running is Del. Peter Franchot, 58, a Montgomery County liberal known for his criticism of the Ehrlich administration.



Ehrlich backs faith-based efforts

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday that he believes drug treatment programs with a religious component are more effective than secular ones.

Speaking at a meeting at which the Board of Public Works approved a $542,000 grant to help the House of Freedom expand its emergency shelter in downtown Baltimore, Ehrlich said statistics will bear out the greater long-term effectiveness of faith-based treatment.

"When you change hearts, you get a lifetime of change," he said.



Road-rage suspect held on bail

A motorist who allegedly acknowledged emptying his handgun at a car that wouldn't let him pass on Interstate 70 told a judge it was road rage, "but it wasn't all my fault."

Jimmie Lee Johnson, 35, of Baltimore remained in the Washington County jail yesterday, one day after his bond was set at $400,000.

"What happened yesterday was road rage, but it wasn't all my fault. I really was defending myself," Johnson said at his bond hearing Tuesday in Washington County District Court. "I am glad -- truly glad -- that no one was hurt. I really wish this wouldn't have happened."

Neither the 19-year-old driver nor his female passenger in the targeted Chrysler PT Cruiser was hurt Monday afternoon, police said. The car appeared to have been hit twice in the side and once on a wheel, state police Cpl. Mike Fluharty said.

Johnson told police after his arrest that he fired the 9 mm pistol "until the gun stopped firing." Police said they found one shell casing in Johnson's Chevrolet Suburban and two more near where the shots allegedly were fired, about four miles west of Hagerstown. Assistant State's Attorney Arthur Rozes called it "a classic case of road rage. He was enraged that someone wouldn't let him pass on Interstate 70."

According to charging documents, Johnson had been following the PT Cruiser driven by Derwood resident Kyle Hitchcock very closely in the left-hand passing lane before moving to the right lane. As Johnson passed Hitchcock, he fired at the car, police said. Hitchcock pulled his damaged car into the median, and Johnson was stopped by police about 13 miles away on the interstate.

Johnson was charged with attempted second-degree murder, having a handgun in a vehicle, using a handgun in the commission of a felony or violent crime, possession of a firearm with a felony conviction, possession of marijuana, and two counts each of first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.



Racing banned on farmland

Cecil County commissioners have decided to ban motocross racing on agricultural land after complaints from residents.

The zoning change, approved Tuesday, was prompted by Conowingo residents who wanted to prevent a proposed motocross track from being built on a 44-acre farm. Although that proposed track ended up being dropped by the developer, residents wanted a zoning change to prevent any future tracks.

The tracks are still allowed by special exception in mineral-extraction zones and heavy business and industrial regions.



Police await test results in death

Authorities are awaiting a toxicology report on the cause of death of a man who died in police custody last weekend.

Nevin Keith Potter, 32, was arrested Friday in Easton and was pepper-sprayed while resisting arrest. He was taken to the hospital later Friday after police noticed he was sick. He died Saturday.

The autopsy on Potter's body has been completed, but the results are pending.


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