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June 21, 2005

Partisan Political Poisoning

Roy Meachum

Over the 20 years I’ve written from Frederick, the record shows that I am a bi-partisan complainer. Democrats and Republicans alike have stoked my ire. When it comes to praise, it can also be said my approach is “bi-sexual.”

At the state level, for example, Gov. Parris Glendening’s abysmal administration caused me to back GOP challenger Ellen Sauerbrey. When Mr. Glendening mercifully ran out of term time, it was my privilege to support Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, his lieutenant governor, simply because I believed her to be “the best man” for the job.

Within this community, when a Democratic political machine ran the county, I earned the deep enmity of its boss, by simply doing my job. But the Republicans’ leading light, when it comes to fundraising, State Sen. Alex Mooney scarcely mourned my firing from the local daily paper.

Refusing to put things through an ideological screen, I am constantly amazed at how friends and colleagues interpret everything in terms of what’s best for their party; they go on the attack based on the perception someone else’s bias runs counter to their best interest.

Probably the most non-partisan Maryland election I’ve witnessed swept into the governor’s office Bob Ehrlich, the first Republican governor in decades. His victory properly belonged to Democrats Don Schaefer, Mike Miller and – above all – Mr. Glendening, who sabotaged Mrs. Townsend.

They did not trust her lack of dependency on them, which meant a complete lack of control. They feared she might actually act solely out of public interest. They preferred the GOP candidate seemingly because he was a politician and therefore pragmatic, meaning they expected compromise over open warfare. Of course, they were wrong.

Senate President Miller lined up his big shoulders with the new governor’s on the administration’s biggest goal, bringing slot machines to the state. That was a major step in the direction Democrats hoped would prove a partnership; instead Mr. Ehrlich insisted on sticking chiefly to his own agenda, which amounted to open defiance of the General Assembly.

For opposing slots, Speaker Mike Busch was attacked within his own party for “playing politics.” His compromise slots bill passed by the House in the last session was summarily rejected by the Democratic Senate leadership. Go figure.

In the event – as Baltimore’s Sun announces virtually daily on its front page – Mr. Ehrlich gives indication he has already assumed an election year mentality, hunkering down into a GOP bunker and taunting Democrats by vetoing legislation, among other things.

Our mutual friends, Republicans all of course, provide logical bases for his actions, citing reasonable reasons that effectively argue the governor has no choice. The other, less persuasive approach simply claims Parris Glendening did worse.

Since they must remember my low regard for Mr. Ehrlich’s predecessor, they know, in advance, that dog not only doesn’t hunt, but really stays locked up in its house. When my children were young the one rationalization that instantly raised my voice ran along the lines “but the other kids” whatever it was.

Much of Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty’s performance in office has been justified by a garbled version of the alleged sins of Jim Grimes, depicted as the ultimate good ol’ boy. When true, which is seldom, her defense amounts to adopting the notion that two wrongs make her position right. She is a Democrat and female, both opposite Mr. Ehrlich’s reality; I find it more than ironic both should pursue an identical defense.

The mayor can scarcely play the partisan tune in the primary against Ron Young, so she goes instead for trying to brand him and his supporters as opposing her re-election because they can’t stand strong women. At his side last week for his official announcement was Karen Lewis, former chairman of the Weinberg board, whom Ms. Dougherty has every reason to recall is scarcely a simpering, weak girl.

In the governor’s case, his resort to highly partisan tactics strikes me as equally suspect. Everything I’ve seen proclaims he achieved the State House because of a wad of Democrats’ votes. He may know something we don’t know. All those other-party supporters might be really Republicans under the skin, as many in Frederick revealed, switching registration after Mr. Ehrlich’s victory. Otherwise, the GOP hold on the state’s top chair appears much endangered from here.

The only thing readers can know for certain is that, as over these past 20 years, my choice in next year’s election will rest on the candidate who appears more worthy, to me, whatever the party label he brandishes and whatever the prospects of being a winner!

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