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July 6, 2010

The Maryland Republican Mess

Roy Meachum

Mingling again at the GOP’s Barley & Hops First Friday night, I realized that most of my best friends are Republicans. They regard me as wild-eyed and totally liberal. They might put up with me because of my bald head and gray beard.


The realization hit hard once more at the monthly writers’ breakfast. Crowded into Barbara Fritchie’s side room, the only Democrat I recognized was Michael Kurtianyk. He’s filed for the county commissioners’ race. Michael’s personality is more subdued than mine. For pertinent example, he would never write the column that follows:


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Going into the Fourth of July weekend, the Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele pulled another big-time gaffe: he declared the Afghanistan war was created and propagated by another African American, Barack Obama. My best black friend said: “How white can that guy try to be?”


As every reader of this space knows very well, Mr. Steele was once lieutenant governor, a heartbeat from presiding over Maryland. I met him at a Frederick 2002 political rally and found him likeably quiet in a former seminarian way. He studied for the Catholic priesthood but thought better on that life and withdrew. When he ran for the U.S. Senate four years later, he was swept aside by the Democratic tide. At no time, however, did he stick both his feet in his mouth as he has consistently done from his national perch.


As all my best friends know, Mr. Steele’s running mate, Bob Ehrlich, is trying to reach State House again. This time he named for the number two another member of a minority, a woman named Mary Kane. She previously served under Governor Ehrlich as the secretary of state.


The Washington Post published Sunday one more story on the scandal that attends her (and his) race; she and her husband co-own Kane’s, Washington largest office mover, according to the Post. During the Bush administration, a former worker sued, alleging the company had practiced widespread fraudulent practices against federal agencies. The Justice Department naturally investigated and joined the suit.


In other words, Mrs. Kane’s attraction for women could be outweighed by the appearance of fraudulence against the family company. The charge that must be proved, said employees were paid less than the government contracts stated. The company submitted claims that it had lived up to contracts.


Republican campaign workers claim she never participated, her husband ran the whole shebang; they also say her equal ownership would only apply if they divorce. By the way, during Mr. Ehrlich’s single term as governor, husband John Kane was chairman of the state Republican committee.


Some of my best friends are frustrated and angry with that committee; they say the state GOP organization moved illegally in endorsing before the primaries Maryland’s former chief executive. Westminster’s Carmen Amedori and Brian Murphy, who lists a Chevy Chase address, both filed their official entries on April 16. Mr. Ehrlich co-hosted his WBAL radio show as long as he legally could, leaving his wife in charge. Presumably he intends to make his candidacy on the record today, beating this year’s primaries’ deadline that comes at the close of official business hours – 9 P.M. today.


Local Republican stalwarts wanted at least a choice; they feel they were railroaded, their civil rights option co-opted. They are not happy campers going in to November’s important elections.


Nationwide local elections already held demonstrated the mistake of counting on antipathy for the Obama administration. With a long row to hoe, it seems foolish to freeze out any segment of Maryland’s Republican faithful. Overcoming the lopsided Democratic voter registrations will demand a strong turnout for independents that vote the GOP ticket.


Especially with the scandals accompanying former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and ex-Secretary of State Mary Kane, this strikes me as hardly a year for Republican candidates to expect to skate free – look, ma, no hands! – into office.


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