Republicans Opt for Back-to-Basics Leader

By Ann E. Marimow and Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 13, 2007

Montgomery County Republicans have elected a new leader, Chairman Bill Witham.

By one vote, the county's Republican central committee tapped Witham over Tom Reinheimer, who had served five years in the party's leadership, including three as its chairman.

Witham, a retired chief building engineer who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates last year in District 39, which includes Germantown and Montgomery Village, was making introductions at County Executive Isiah Leggett's state of the county address last week.

Reinheimer, a computer security consultant from Germantown, called his departure a "mixed blessing" and said it was "the result of a weak overall Republican Party."

But you haven't seen the last of him. Reinheimer, who worked to build support for the intercounty connector, said his next project might be drumming up a campaign to construct additional Potomac River crossings.

"We ought to keep things exciting in Montgomery County," he said.

Reinheimer might have alienated some moderate Republicans last month after they caught wind of an e-mail he sent to the Audubon Naturalist Society. The message mocked environmentalists, after a judge cleared the way for construction of the intercounty connector, which they opposed. Titled "ANS are losers," Reinheimer's e-mail included a picture of a crying baby and the words: "Denied, denied, denied, denied! Again you pathetic enviro-wacks lose! Go ICC!"

Witham said his election was a sign that the party is looking for "new, fresh ideas." He said he intends to take the party back to basics: "less government, less taxes, less regulation and more moral character."

Playing Musical Chairs

Even as county officials push forward with a deal to bring one of Live Nation's Fillmore-style music halls to Silver Spring, debate continues in letters and e-mails from the community over whether County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) should take a look at an alternative offer from Seth Hurwitz of Bethesda-based I.M.P.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who has worked with I.M.P. at Merriweather Post Pavilion, has weighed in on Hurwitz's behalf. Unsolicited, Ulman (D) wrote to Leggett to vouch for I.M.P.'s track record and urge him to consider Hurwitz's proposal for Silver Spring.

Ulman said Hurwitz "transformed" Merriweather from "a deep downward spiral under the management of Clear Channel Communications to a thriving, nationally recognized outdoor concert pavilion." Live Nation was spun off in 2005 from Clear Channel.

Ken Wingate, a manager at Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center in Wheaton, has started an e-mail campaign and petition drive in support of I.M.P. through a nonprofit he created called the Institute for Independent Music. The group's message appeals to Leggett to temporarily stop all talks with Live Nation "until the proposal of I.M.P. Productions, along with any other interested parties, has been given a fair and thorough chance in a competitive bidding process so that Montgomery County may get the best possible partner for this venture."

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