Rep. Ehrlich Still Deciding on a Race
By Daniel LeDuc, Robert E. Pierre and Charles Babington
A flurry of stories the last couple of weeks that said U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) probably will be running for a fifth term in 2000 quoted sources close to Ehrlich--who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties--as saying Sarbanes is "impossible" to beat.
The young Republican is intensely ambitious and has said himself that his party took a drubbing in Maryland in November. But his political director, Paul Schurick, insisted this week that Ehrlich has not made a decision about challenging Sarbanes.
"We have not decided not to run," he said. Under the right conditions, "we could be in that race tomorrow." For now the right conditions mean telling potential donors that the future is wide open.
Ehrlich is hoping to raise $500,000 at a March 22 fund-raiser, to be held at the Marriott Hotel at Baltimore-Washington International Airport--a spot, Schurick pointed out, that is not in his congressional district, the 2nd District. "The purpose is to keep that option [of challenging Sarbanes] and other options alive," Schurick said. "We're going to run for something in 2000" even if it's only reelection to the House.
In the meantime, Ehrlich is continuing the rubber chicken circuit from Montgomery County to the Eastern Shore--all places, like his fund-raiser, outside the 2nd District.
Valderrama Has Not Had Enough
For the second time in months, President Clinton's troubles have seeped into Maryland politics.
This summer, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) caused a stir when he chastised the president for his relationship with a White House intern and then refused to appear with the president. Glendening switched gears a short time later, realizing that many of his constituents--especially African Americans--were not pleased with his decision. That furor has died down, but Del. David M. Valderrama (D-Prince George's) doesn't think enough has been said about the president's impeachment.
Valderrama has asked his colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly to adopt a proposed resolution urging the U.S. Senate to consider a "dismissal" or "censure" option. He also has written the National Conference of State Legislatures to disseminate copies of the resolution to all state legislatures and the District.
"People from all walks of life, from Reverend Jesse Jackson to Jay Leno, have weighed in on the national debate generated by the impeachment trial of the president," Valderrama said in a news release. "All politics being local, state legislators should jump into the fray before it's too late."
By the end of this week, it may be a moot point.
Stadiums Need More Support
For years, supporters of Baltimore's publicly financed baseball and football stadiums have argued that Marylanders voluntarily paid for the structures by buying lottery tickets dedicated specifically for the Stadium Authority.
No longer. The Maryland Lottery now says that sales of the sports-related games have sagged so much that it needs permission to use proceeds from other lottery games to pay for the stadiums for baseball's Orioles and football's Ravens. Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell (D-Baltimore County), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has obliged the agency by introducing a bill to that effect.
The measure, Senate Bill 104, is scheduled for a hearing in his committee today.
Critics of the publicly financed stadiums are finding little comfort in saying "I told you so." They had argued throughout the 1990s that state-paid arenas weren't widely popular. Powerful political leaders--primarily Glendening and his predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, both Democrats--championed the financing plans, always contending that no Marylanders would have to pay for the stadiums against their will.
It began in 1987, when Schaefer and other stadium supporters struggled to find politically acceptable means of financing a new home for the Orioles and a new football arena in hopes of attracting a team to replace the departed Colts. They settled on a plan to designate the profits from some games of the well-established state lottery system for the newly created Stadium Authority.
The games, primarily instant scratch-off tickets, were to be clearly marked for the Stadium Authority. They also were to have sports-related themes.
The funding plan worked for a while, but it's insufficient now that the lottery must generate $32 million this year for the Stadium Authority.
"Sports tickets are generally our poorest selling scratch-offs," Lottery Director Buddy Roogow told Finance Committee members last month, according to the Annapolis Capital. "People don't like them."
Over the years, he said, lottery officials have struggled to think of new ideas for sports-related games. "We have cows playing tennis," Roogow said.
Under Bromwell's proposal, which legislators say is likely to be enacted, Roogow's agency will be free to use proceeds from any lottery games to fulfill its obligations to the Stadium Authority. Critics say it amounts to a governmental bait-and-switch, but it's too late to do anything about it, now that both stadiums are built.
"The Stadium Authority said this was going to be funded through a special sports lottery and it would rise or fall based on whether there was enough support from the public," said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Montgomery), who opposed the 1996 financing plan for the Ravens stadium. "Well, the public has spoken."
The proposed lottery plan isn't as offensive, Van Hollen said, as the state's decision to let Ravens owner Art Modell sell the stadium's naming rights to PSINet for about $10 million over 20 years.
He and other legislators tried to outlaw such an arrangement in the 1996 General Assembly, but stadium supporters insisted on keeping the option open.
Columbia Pollster Reorganizing
Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research, the Columbia-based pollster for many media organizations across the country, is undergoing a reorganization that has seen most of its employees leave.
President Brad Coker said, "I'm changing personnel" as he takes the business in a "change in direction."
He said the company is still in business but that a sister company, Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling & Strategy Inc., has folded. That company advised candidates and campaigns.
Two former Mason-Dixonites are now out on their own. Patrick E. Gonzales and Carol A. Arscott have formed Gonzales-Arscott Research & Communications Inc.
They're seeking clients and plan to provide consulting help to businesses, associations and educational institutions with interests in public policy. They'll also pursue campaign work during election years, Arscott said.
Arscott is the former chairman of the Howard County Republican Party. Gonzales is a Democrat who has advised Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D).
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