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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


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June 26, 2006

Summer Solstice and Random Reflections

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Normally, this column is researched and written between Monday and Thursday. It's good to leave the multi-talented editor a little time to "clean" things up before the weekend.

Time and events conspired to make this week's entry more difficult than normal, so instead of the carefully written analysis of some relevant political issue, you'll find a collection of observations and thoughts that have backed up during the last few hectic weeks surrounding the Special Session.

A Dad's Duty to his Daughter

I wasn't in Annapolis with my House of Delegate colleagues last Friday for the override of the veto of the BG&E electric rate stabilization bill. Instead, I was home, running back and forth across Frederick County with Mrs. Weldon preparing for the wedding of my oldest daughter Morgan. She and her fiancÚ were wed on Saturday, and in spite of a year spent planning, there were a million little details that needed attention.

I really struggled with the decision not to attend the override session. Readers here will hopefully understand my commitment to my General Assembly service. Given that commitment, obtaining an excused absence for a session was a big deal.

Nowhere as big a deal as not being there for one of the three people who depend on me more than anyone else in the world. Besides, the outcome is obvious. My vote would have been to sustain Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.'s veto of the rate bill. So, instead of listening to Democrats try to blame Governor Ehrlich for the high electric bills their own deregulation actions have caused, I was busy helping Morgan and Perry begin their lives together. Truly, a no-brainer.

Petition Drive falls short

Back during the General Assembly session of 2005, the legislature passed a series of bills that either: 1.) Makes voting more accessible to the masses, or 2.) Encourages massive voter fraud on an unprecedented scale. The difference depends on your political philosophy.

The most blatant and inappropriate example of traditional smoky, back-room style politics is the opening of polling places up to a week before an election. These "early voting" locations are established in law, and will be located in precincts with a high concentration of Democrat voters.

An unsophisticated observer would suggest this is only being done to insure a higher vote count for Martin O'Malley. That's how badly they fear Governor Ehrlich's chances for re-election. More on that subject later in this column.

The bill passed the General Assembly along party lines. The governor vetoed the bill, and as soon as the legislature convened for the 2006 session, that veto was overridden.

Recognizing the real meaning behind this early voter scam, Governor Ehrlich and the state Republican Party embarked on an initiative to gather the necessary signatures to place this little throwback to election fraud history on the ballot as a referendum question.

As soon as the signature drive began, Attorney General Joe Curran (maybe more than a little biased because he is Mayor O'Malley's father-in-law) and his minions ruled that since the bill was passed in the 2005 session, the time to petition it to referendum was a year earlier.

The petition drive went along in spite of Mr. Curran's intervention. Presumably, the petition drive organizers had intended to seek a court's opinion considering Curran's blatant political bias.

So the petition drive pressed on full speed. At several Frederick County events, clipboards were passed around, pens flying over the form as new names were added.

Last week State Elections Board Director Linda Lamone, no stranger to controversy, announced that the petition drive had fallen short of the mandatory mid-June signature threshold.

You'll remember Ms. Lamone, as she was granted essentially a lifetime appointment to her job as a direct result of legislative intervention. Senate President Mike Miller (D., Calvert/PG) was concerned that the State Elections Board was planning to seek Ms. Lamone's resignation, based mostly on a lack of confidence in her leadership.

Senator Miller, aided by House Speaker Mike Busch (D., Anne Arundel), rammed through a bill to take away the Election Board's constitutional prerogative to remove their employee, and gave that power to the legislative leaders.

So, now, Ms. Lamone, obviously owing a great deal to her legislative "sugar daddies" Miller and Busch, is responsible for certifying the tally of signatures of the petition drive. Any wonder as to why the effort came up short?

The numbers are really telling. The petition drive had to obtain 17,062 signatures by mid June, with another 51,000 due on June 30. So how short were they? How about 138 signatures.

One hundred thirty-eight signature short of the goal, even though well over 25,000 signatures were turned in to local election offices prior to the deadline. Something stinks here, and it isn't a rotting fish carcass!

Campaign Commercials

The gubernatorial candidates have begun releasing their advertising messages. Doug Duncan, who withdrew from the race last Thursday citing health concerns, had run TV ads before the last General Assembly session, targeting Mayor O' Malley's backyard, Baltimore City.

Mayor O'Malley started his effort in the early spring, attacking Governor Ehrlich exclusively. He didn't really consider Mr. Duncan a rival, and the state Democratic Party didn't, either.

Now Governor Ehrlich has rolled out his first ad. It is a very effective ad, featuring a group of racially and gender diverse Maryland residents talking about the governor and his accomplishments.

You never see Bob Ehrlich on screen, but you hear a lot about his record and accomplishments. One of the most effective aspects is the reference to Ehrlich's desire to govern from the middle, an aspect of his leadership that evokes as much criticism as it does favor.

As a form of validation for the efficacy of the commercial, leading Democrats rushed to find media outlets where they could pick apart his ad. If they thought the ad didn't work, believe me, they would just let it go without comment.

My personal favorite line came from Sen. Paula Hollinger (D., Baltimore Co.), the diminutive but powerful chair of the Senate Education, Health, and Environment Committee. She attacks the line where a mother clutching a baby thanks Governor Ehrlich for leading on stem cells.

Senator Hollinger claims that Governor Ehrlich didn't lead; he just pledged $20 million for stem cell research and $12 million for a research facility. That's a huge funding commitment, far beyond anything previously offered, yet Senator Hollinger says that's not leading.

There are a thousand other things out there that need the light of truth and common sense shown upon them, but they will have to wait for another day. The nuptials call me.

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