Despite Past With Bill Clinton, Ulman Switches Allegiance

Ken Ulman favors Barack Obama.
Ken Ulman favors Barack Obama. (James M. Thresher - Twp)
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By Susan DeFord
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Twelve years ago, when Ken Ulman was a senior at the University of Maryland, he left college to work full time for the reelection campaign of President Bill Clinton.

"He gave me my start in politics," said Ulman, 33, who after Clinton's reelection returned to school. Ulman won a seat on the Howard County Council in 2002 and was elected to the county executive post in 2006.

"The first time I heard President Clinton speak in 1992, I felt a sense of exciting energy and optimism," Ulman recalled. "I have not felt that way about a presidential candidate until now."

The candidate Ulman referred to was Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), however, not Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Ulman said he had "no negative feelings" about Clinton as he weighed his decision. But Obama, he concluded, "represents the best chance to really see the change we need in this country."

The Howard executive said he was lobbied by supporters in both camps before making his endorsement public last week. Clinton won backing from prominent Maryland Democrats, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, and locally, from Del. Shane E. Pendergrass (Howard) and County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty (West Columbia), among others.

Ulman said he would be out knocking on doors and working the polls on Election Day for Obama, just as he did on Clinton's behalf in '96.

Lights, Camera, Action

There's more Ulman news.

The county executive landed a coveted cameo on "The Wire," the HBO police drama set in Baltimore that media critics have often described as the best show on television. Naturally, Ulman said he's a huge fan.

Ulman draws on his college intern experience at a Baltimore TV station to play a television reporter who asks questions of authorities. In the fifth and final season, he's briefly seen in Episode 6, which aired Sunday, and Episode 7, which airs this week.

Ulman said he assumed the demeanor of an "aggressive" reporter and nailed his takes during shooting in Columbia and Baltimore. He figures he's on-screen a total of five or six seconds. "I'm convinced I should stick to my day job," he said Monday.

He's donating the $1,295 he earned from his appearances to the Howard County Police Foundation in memory of Cpl. Scott Wheeler, who died in June when he was struck by a car as he tried to flag down a motorist for speeding. Also benefiting from Ulman's "Wire" paycheck is the Lance Armstrong Foundation, of which brother Doug, a three-time cancer survivor, is president.

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