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A national figure -- just barely

The Baltimore Sun

Mark Halperin, Time magazine's senior political analyst, came out with a list of boldface Dems yesterday, and Martin O'Malley was on it, whether he liked it or not.

Title: "The 13 People Whose Potential Public Calls for Hillary Clinton to Get Out of the Race Would Have an Impact on the Media and Other Democrats."

Rounding out the baker's dozen were Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, John Edwards, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bill Richardson, "any of Clinton's current prominent African-American supporters" (lumped together at No. 7), Howard Dean, Rahm Emanuel, Marian Wright Edelman, Ed Rendell and Jon Corzine.

How did our little ol' governor wind up on that list (at No. 13)?

"He's a national figure," Halperin told me by phone.

C'mon!

"OK, he's a punk rock star."

Halperin went on to say, "The list is a combination of people who have said things that lead me to believe they could be influential in shaping what she thinks, and who have an occasional tendency to speak out."

Which doesn't mean O'Malley's press office was willing to speak out on the topic. All spokesman Rick Abbruzzese would say was, "It's good company to be in."

Cuisine for two, or even for 2,000

The acclaimed cooks in the running for Maryland Chef of the Year whip up their cuisine in quaint historic houses, a museum, a bustling restaurant row, a sleek waterfront locale - and a convention center, where the guy in the toque works for a company best known for stadium grub.

Chef Gary Leach of the Ocean City Convention Center is up for the Maryland Restaurant Association award. His competition: Cindy Wolf of Charlestown in Baltimore, John Shields of Gertrude's at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Michel Tersiguel of Tersiguel's in Ellicott City, Michael Gettier of Antrim 1844 in Taneytown and Jason Tepper of La Miche in Bethesda.

(The winner, chosen by vote at www.marylandrestaurants.com, will be announced April 28.)

"I'm dumbfounded by it myself," said Leach, who works for Centerplate, supplier of food to Yankee Stadium and many other sports venues.

Which isn't to say Leach is serving rubber convention chicken and ballpark franks. Though he sometimes dishes out dinner for 2,000, Leach can squiggle sauce and use plate as a verb with the best of them.

One of his fancier dishes: pan-seared rockfish with Eastern Shore seafood hash and roasted asparagus with roasted red pepper aioli.

"The food's good, the service is excellent and everyone goes home happy and goes to the boardwalk for their dessert," said Jim Mathias, the state delegate and former Ocean City mayor. "Popcorn and saltwater taffy."

Even the parents might show up

Kendel Ehrlich will spend this morning doing something that looks a whole lot like candidate-spouse duty: reading to children.

The former first lady will read a couple of books to about 50 kids, ages 2 to 4, at KinderCare in Arnold. Further proof that her husband is still running for governor?

"Doesn't sound like the audience is of voting age," spokesman Henry Fawell said.

Their parents are, however. And some of them plan to attend, even though they'd passed on the chance to watch previous "celebrity readers" - a firefighter, dental hygienist and grocery store clerk.

"This will be the first one where the parents are actually coming to watch," said center director Cathy Primrose. "At least 10 of the parents, and I even know some grandparents, are coming."

Primrose said the event wasn't political on her end. She invited the governor and Katie O'Malley, as well as Kendel and Bob Ehrlich, to read. Kendel was the only one who could make it.

"She e-mailed back pretty much immediately," Primrose said.

The current first lady did send her regrets, Primrose said. "She did write a very nice letter explaining that she is a judge full time and it's very difficult for her to come during the day."

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