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From church, to GOP, to a Cornhusker office

The Baltimore Sun

What's the surer route to workplace fun:

Defending the Catholic Church's decision to invalidate a little girl's First Communion because the girl, who can't eat gluten, was given a rice wafer?

Or promoting the GOP in a state like Maryland?

Audra Miller has had the pleasure of doing both, and now the spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party is moving on. She left Friday to become communications director for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska. She will work out of his Washington office.

Before joining the state GOP two years ago, Miller was spokeswoman for the Diocese of Trenton. She was on that job in 2004 when the diocese became embroiled in a celiac-Communion flap.

On one side: an 8-year old with celiac sprue disease and a desire to take Communion.

On the other: A church that wasn't budging from its centuries-old wheat-host tradition.

Not that Miller was the one behind the decision. That went all the way to the Vatican. But Miller was the mouthpiece for the diocese at gluten ground zero. Hate mail flew in from as far away as Australia and China.

"It was a mess," she said.

Any worse than trying to sell one of America's bluest states on the Republican dream?

"I think it's hard to top Maryland in the shade of blue," she said.

But Miller said she enjoyed her time here - if only because she met her future husband on the job. She and Michael Harrison, the state party's former political director, are to be married in October. He has moved on, too, to the Environmental Protection Agency, where he works in congressional affairs.

Rival candidates, marital harmony

Joe Curran has one of those overstuffed Fibber McGee closets, except it's an armoire. It's painted on the outside and pretty enough to sit in his fancy Homeland living room, but inside it's a mess.

With a little more time on his hands lately, the ex-AG started cleaning it out and came across an envelope with two old letters.

One, dated June 9, 1956, was from Estes Kefauver, the senator from Tennessee who was on the Democratic ticket with Adlai Stevenson that year. He was thanking Barbara Atkins - Curran's future wife - for her support.

The other, dated Aug. 16, 1957, was from then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, the guy Kefauver beat for the VP nomination. He was thanking Curran, then a law student, for his support.

After they married, Joe Curran says, he and his wife got on the same page politically.

"We both voted for Kennedy, I can promise you that."

Take the winnings, and get back to work

What good is winning the lottery if you can't quit your job on the spot? Ask the Baltimore woman who on Feb. 20 bought a scratch-off ticket on her afternoon coffee break, won big, but couldn't even take the rest of the day off. She was expected back at the courthouse, where she was serving as a grand juror.

Her $50,000 haul probably wasn't enough to retire on. But surely it was enough to distract the average grand juror from the criminal justice matter at hand. Even if it was a murder case - sheesh! How could she concentrate? I'd like to ask, but the woman - a state employee when she's not on jury duty - asked lottery honchos to keep her name under wraps.

If a bunch of bad guys go unindicted, we'll know why. A courthouse spy tells me the grand jury has asked to adjourn early one day this week so they can celebrate.

Connect the dots

Tim Recher, executive chef at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel, appears in The Great American Seafood Cookoff II on the Food Network today, in an episode that will be repeated a couple of times this week. Recher, 39, represented Maryland in the competition. He was selected for that honor last year by no less a culinary authority than Bob Ehrlich. (The ex-Gov once joked on WHFS that chefs at the governor's mansion were lost on him, since he lived on energy bars and Rice Krispies.) ... Recher has also gotten recognition from some bona fide foodies: The Nation's Capital Chef's Association, the D.C. chapter of the American Culinary Federation, recently named him chef of the year. ... Del. Frank Conaway Jr. has a bill that would allow Circuit Court clerks to retain the power to perform marriage ceremonies after they retire. Is the bachelor delegate trying to make sure his dad, Baltimore Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway Sr., will be able to preside over his wedding someday? The younger Conaway said he didn't have his father, or any nuptials of his own, in mind. "Some of the other clerks around the state are interested," he said.

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