D.C., Maryland and Virginia Politics

Mark Plotkin
WTOP Political Commentator
Tuesday, January 2, 2007; 2:00 PM

WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin was online Tuesday, Jan. 2, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss local politics.

The transcript follows.

Plotkin joined WTOP after 10 years as a political analyst for WAMU radio. He has been active in D.C. and national politics since attending George Washington University in the late '60s.


Manassas, Va.: Jim Gilmore for President? What are your thoughts on a possible Gilmore presidency?

Mark Plotkin: Happy New Year to everybody, Republicans and Democrats, I've missed our exchange, but ready to go into it with great relish. Jim Gilmore is delusional or living in some sort of fantasy world. This is a case of un requited love between Gilmore and the Bush White House. You will recall that Gilmore served a brief time as the chair of the national GOP. Karl Rove and Gilmore had some spat and Gilmore was removed. I think this is his way of getting back. He is the longest of longshots, but look it's a free country.


Ward 4: What is up with the Michael ("Not the shadow Senator, the other one") Brown signs up everywhere? Is he a declared candidate yet? I thought he was just "exploring" whether to run (and raking in tons of unreported donations)?

Mark Plotkin: Michael Brown is seeking to make up for his abysmal mayoral campaign. He does have visibility in Ward 4 and should be considered the front runner at least in name recognition, but he still has the challenge of organizing a campaign. The special election is May 1 and there are a boat load of candidates. he could easily pull a Mendelson and win with 17 percent of the vote as At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson did when he first won office.

My colleague, Mark Segraves, the special election guru, will be giving this race and the Ward 7 race, due diligence and great scrutiny. He shines on minor matters like this.

On another matter which I think deserves mention and reaction, Ward 3 Councilmember, Mary Cheh has asked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to swear her in at the ceremonial swearing in on Wednesday morning at the DC Convention Center. It should be noted that Justice Ginsberg was one of the 8 justices in 2000 who in the lawsuit Alexander v Daley voted against the interests of the residents of D.C. by affirming the decision of the 3 judge panel which threw out D.C.'s case for full voting rights in the U.S. congress. Justice John Paul Stevens (Gerald Ford's only Supreme Court appointment) dissented from the majority decision and noted that he wanted to "set case for oral argument." That is in English, Ginsberg, a DC resident, not only voted against D.C. but would not even give the city a hearing. Cheh, a law professor, who I spoke with on Monday, takes great umbrage at this question and says that I am "over-reaching and really grasping and that all of this {questioning} is pretty offensive."

I think it's pretty offensive that elected officials continue to honor and reward those who go out of their way to diminish D.C. and not grant the same rights of citizenship that every other American takes for granted. I would like your reaction to this. Why must we continue this Stockholm Syndrome ( falling in love with our captors).


Washington, D.C.: I find it somewhat ominous that no further updates have been provided to the public concerning Senator Johnson's recovery. Is he still in critical condition?...Has he regained consciousness? Why has this news dropped off the radar screen?..If he was recovering as hoped, I would guess more information on his recovery would have been made public...

Mark Plotkin: I saw a recent report saying that he was getting better. I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on the radio. ( WTOP 103.5 FM and WTWP 1500 AM ) But I'll tell you one thing, the Democrats leading 51 to 49 will never let him resign.


Bowels of the Wilson Building: So what do you make of the various committee chairs? I was surprised with Schwartz getting Government Operations given that Cheh had said publicly that she wanted that chair (not to mention the oddity of the minority party getting to chair any committee). Barry getting the newly-created Housing committee seemed to be more about giving him something to chair without him being able to do much damage.

And when do we find out about the membership of each committee?

Mark Plotkin: Barry wanted Education, there was no way Gray was going to give him that. Cheh publicly said she was disappointed with what she got. Schwartz shouldn't have gotten any committee chair since she is in the minority, nor should any non Democrat. That's the way it works in every other legislature. Barry was given a position that Gray thought would do the least harm. I don't know when the other members will be picked, but I'll be glad to let you know by next week. Gray is signaling a fight with Fenty, I believe, over the take over of the schools, that's why he made himself Chair of the Education Committee and every councilmember a member of that committee.


Arlington, Va.: Why won't they give you a daily political program? An hour is all I can stand you for, but I would listen to an hour each weekday.

Mark Plotkin: That's a management decision and I suggest you call Jim Farley at 202-895-5071 and Grag Tantum 202-474-4800 they make those decisions for WTOP 103.5 FM and WTWP 1500 AM.

An hour a day is the extent to which I could stand hearing myself.


Washington, D.C. : I heard you this morning say Fenty wouldn't let you attend his swearing-in. I can't believe you let him get away with that.

Mark Plotkin: My able colleague, Segraves (AKA Jimmy Olson) , gave I'm sure a colorful and accurate depiction of today's private swearing in. Fenty had sought to keep the media out of the ceremony, but repeated demands by news outlets to be allowed access forced Fenty to reconsider at the 11th hour and permit reporters to attend. However, reporters were not allowed cameras or recording devices even though friends and family of those being sworn in were allowed as many cameras as they pleased. You can read a complete re-cap of the event at WWW.WTOPNEWS.COM including a description of the religious symbol one new councilmember presented to Fenty and each councilmember.


Metro Center: So the new Fenty administration is apparently simply a spinoff of the Williams administration given the people that will be heading the city agencies. In your view, which agencies are most in desperate need of fixing?

Mark Plotkin: The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is at the top of the list. Lisa Morgan has been appointed on an interim basis, she is a talented person but has a very big job to turn around the culture of that place. EMS obviously needs help and I think should be taken out of the fire department. Those are two good starters. Mayor Fenty told me on Monday that he replaced agency heads where there "was a problem." there still are a lot of interim appointments which means they are on probation.


D.C. 20001: Mark, get over it already. I know I'm not the only one who no longer pays much attention to your chats because of your ridiculous obsession with full D.C. voting rights. In fact I tend to lurk just to see how many times you will work it into a particular chat.

I'm 62, as born here, have lived here all my life except for college and military service, and I couldn't care less about DC voting rights.

Justice Ginsburg and others are right that it will require a constitutional amendment to bring that about. Justice Ginsburg did not write the Constitution so is not responsible for that omission. So, please get over it? There are lots more issues to cover that are much more important to most of your readers.

Mark Plotkin: Well then stop reading them. No one is twisting your arm. If you like to be treated as a second class citizen, that's fine with me. I don't. I guess you don't have much self respect.


Cleveland Park: In the House, we know that Tom Davis is a friend of D.C. residents. Do we have any similar friends in the Senate?

Mark Plotkin: D.C.'s best friend in the Senate is Ted Kennedy and Joe Lieberman is a strong second. Trent Lott has come out for the Bill, but Mitch McConnell told Jack Kemp the Davis Bill is unconstitutional. I think it will pass quickly in the House but there will be problems in the Senate. Even Democrats are not favorable, I think of Max Baucus of Montana who told me while he was walking his dog in Georgetown he would "never vote for it." It's up to Harry Reid and Dick Durbin to deliver this Bill.

I sure would like some questions or comments on Maryland - O'Malley, legislature, taxes, roads, anything...throw me a bone here Marylanders.


Woodbridge, Va.: What are your thoughts on a bill that would change [the] Virginia General Assembly into unicameral (single)legislative body?

Mark Plotkin: For those who would like to know, there is only one state that has a unicameral legislature. The first reader to reply with the correct answer will win lunch with Plotkin or I will record your outgoing voice mail message. I'll let you know the answer at the end of the chat.

I understand the basis for this move in Virginia, because of the long standing conflict between House Republicans and Senate Republicans. a better solution is that re-districting be done not by the legislators themselves, but by a non-partisan non-political group.


Gaithersburg, Md.: OK, here's a question. How do you see the Maryland appeals court ruling on same-sex marriage? If they order equal rights for gay Marylanders, do you think there would be a successful effort in the State Assembly to amend the constitution?

Mark Plotkin: I don't have a take on this, but I will surely ask legislators when they come back on January 10th. We are in the midst of scheduling Governor O'Malley for the Politics Program with WTOP's Mark Plotkin on Washington Post Radio 1500 AM 107.7 FM.


President Ford's Funeral: Hello,

I'm shocked to see the number of photos for the late President Ford's lying in, where politicians are not even wearing morning bands, let alone black! Don't these people make an egregious amount of money such that they can afford ONE black suit! What a lack of respect!!

Outraged in Reston

Mark Plotkin: How about a dark navy blue will that suffice? I suggest you direct your remarks to Ms. Ghivan at the Wa Po who specializes in these matters. On this note I thought Tom Brokaw was particularly good and the senior Bush was classy and charming.


Fort Washington, Md: Nebraska!

Mark Plotkin: We have a winner! I knew this was a smart bunch, call me direct at 202-895-5281 and I'll offer you the prize.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Why, if drinking and/or driving is such a concern at New Year's, would officials have allowed liquor stores to open on Sunday, 12/31, and extend "last call" to 4 a.m.? If it is loss of taxes that was a concern, it seems that in the name of safety that could have be given up for one day. Of course people will drink and certainly could have purchased beverages prior to Sunday. The extended hours seem to have done nothing to encourage reasonable sobriety.

Mark Plotkin: The DC Council made special provisions with legislation to have the store be open. They felt that there would be a loss of revenue and to them a loss of tax dollars.


Richmond, Va.: I am finding the disagreements over raising money for transportation most interesting. My wife and I travel on major interstates during holidays and we have resorted to driving at night. Traffic jams in DC, Virginia Beach and parts of Richmond are literally chocking up commerce and costing people billions of extra dollars. When does it become bad enough for politicians and the public to realize that you get what you pay for? Do you see the political tide turning on this issue? Will we continue to try and fund government by raising money from gambling and other questionable sources? Thanks

Mark Plotkin: The Democrats feel in the Virginia legislature, that the Republicans will hurt themselves on their stance on transportation fees and taxes and that their adamancy on this issue will hurt them in the November elections. I am referring to House Republicans. I think the political tide will turn on this issue, especially in Northern Virginia.

See you next Tuesday, same time same place. Until then you can hear me on WTOP 103.5 FM and my award nominated commentary every Thursday at 7:50 AM.

Plotkin out...


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