Sun Investigates

Former lieutenant governors weigh in on Rutherford's special snow plow

Former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said she could have warned the state's current No. 2 about last week's political dust-up over preferential snow plowing.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford came under fire for asking Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, a fellow Republican, to clear his Columbia residential street last Sunday night. Kittleman obliged, saying Rutherford's presence in Annapolis was essential during a state of emergency.


"Try not to ask people to do special things for you or you get in trouble, as I learned," said Townsend.

Sixteen years ago, the Democrat endured a political freeze when her husband, shoveling snow at 1:30 a.m., stopped a Baltimore County plow and demanded that it clear their Ruxton road. The driver at the time said he relented only after Townsend's husband threatened to wake then-Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger with a call.


While Townsend's husband acknowledged that he wanted the plow's help, he denied that he threatened to call in a political chit.

Afterward, Ruppersberger's administration said the county driver shouldn't have plowed Townsend's street because it was private. Townsend and her neighbors disputed that, too.

Townsend was running for governor at the time, and Ruppersberger, now a Democratic congressman, was considering challenging her. That only served to keep the flap alive, said Townsend, who pointed out that she wasn't even home when the street was plowed.

"It was all politics," Townsend said. "The county executive who wanted to run for governor declared it was a private street. I wasn't even there. I had taken my daughter away to college."

She also pointed out that during a previous snowstorm she met her escort of Maryland State Police troopers by traversing snow to Joppa Road on her cross-country skis. That, she said, was never reported at the time.

Other past lieutenant governors said such accusations of political pandering are overblown.

Michael Steele, who was on the GOP ticket with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that defeated Townsend, said Kittleman did what Maryland residents would expect.

If the state hadn't helped the lieutenant governor get to Annapolis, "you'd be writing a story on why there aren't arrangements to get him to Annapolis," said Steele, whose Largo neighborhood had a private contractor that plowed his roads in the recent storm.


"I do believe the lieutenant governor is a mission-essential player," said former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat who is running for Congress. "If it's for personal convenience, I don't think it's appropriate. If it's for the purpose of carrying out mission-essential duties, then it is."

Nonetheless, Brown noted, he never asked to have his street plowed, even during the 2010 Snowmageddon. Instead, he cleared his driveway and "cranked up the four-wheel drive."

—Doug Donovan