Driving While Plastered
"Iam not an unstable character. I have a wife, I have a job," software engineer S. Saqib Ali assures us. And we absolutely believe him, even though he has plastered his 1996 Saturn bumper-to-bumper with stickers touting Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) for reelection. "I like him a lot," says Ali, 29, of Gaithersburg. Obviously!
A campaign volunteer, he bought 500 bumper stickers at a buck apiece and applied more than 400 to the car he calls the Chris Wagon. "I have 60 or 70 left," he said. "Occasionally I do patchwork when they get frayed or fall off."
Van Hollen told us yesterday: "I appreciate the enthusiasm very much. And I was wondering why we were running short on bumper stickers."
Ali became so enamored of Van Hollen's foreign policy positions that he changed his party affiliation from Green to Democratic. "I'm really motivated against this war and have never felt so animated before," he told us. "I thought, 'What is the most head-turning thing I could possibly do?' "
He says sacrificing his Saturn, a junker with 139,000 miles on it, was no big deal. But it's a good thing he also has a 2001 Audi A4, which he calls "very pristine." And no wonder: That's the one his wife drives.
Election Madness, Part 2
* A 46-year-old Florida man is in the hoosegow today, charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly tried to run down Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) with his Cadillac. While Harris campaigned at a Sarasota intersection Tuesday evening, Barry Seltzer, a registered Democrat, aimed his car "straight at Ms. Harris" but "swerved at the last minute," police said.
Harris told the cops she froze and feared for her life. A campaign staffer told us the car jumped the curb onto the sidewalk. Seltzer claimed to police that campaigners were impeding traffic and said he wasn't trying to crash into anybody. "I intimidated them with my car," he said, according to a police report. "I was exercising my political expression. . . . I scared them a little."
The suspect was jailed without bond. Harris, Florida's secretary of state during the bitterly contested 2000 presidential recount, will be politicking again today on her home turf -- this time joining a somewhat less dangerous appearance by first lady Laura Bush.
Election Madness, Part 3
* "Who knew?" That's the catchphrase in ads run by Maryland's Republican U.S. Senate hopeful, E.J. Pipkin. And though he may not be the funniest guy on the planet, we found a look-alike who is: comedian Jonathan Winters. A Pipkin spokeswoman did not dispute the resemblance, telling us yesterday: "Oh, he does."
A Welcome Invitation
* Actor Stanley Tucci, who was barred from an event earlier this month at Catholic University because of his views on abortion, speaks tomorrow at a Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington lunch honoring him as "Pro-Choice Man of the Year." Regarding the flap with Catholic U., he told us yesterday, "I'm still kind of piecing it together myself. I thought being outspoken was something you were supposed to do in America, but . . . "
Tucci, a suave and funny guy on the phone, added: "I spoke at the Holocaust Museum last week -- even the Jews let me speak! Only Catholics could make you feel bad for not doing anything wrong."
* Dangerous times: First Tucker Carlson was dissed by Jon Stewart. Now, is nature turning against him, too? Early yesterday morning, Carlson was snoozing in the back of a town car, returning from a debate with his CNN "Crossfire" co-host Paul Begala at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa. Two deer darted onto Interstate 95 south of Baltimore. The driver avoided one but collided with the other, setting off the air bag and rendering the car undrivable. No people were hurt. Also fortunately, Begala was bringing up the rear in another car and gave Carlson and his driver a lift. "I'm afraid the deer was not long for this world," Begala told us yesterday. "But as we were inspecting damage, I thought I heard the deer yelling from the woods, 'Your show sucks!' "
* No hard feelings: Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry have made up after Heinz Kerry's gaffe last week claiming that Mrs. Bush has never held a "real job." The first lady told "Access Hollywood": "There really wasn't any reason she should have known for sure. She called and apologized and I appreciate that very much. It really didn't make that much difference to me." She also confessed to standing by her man: "I'm kind of clingy at the end of the campaign and want to be with him."
* We'd never thought we'd see the day when Helen Thomas -- grande dame of the White House press corps -- would have something in common with midriff-baring Britney Spears. But just as Spears was among Glamour magazine's 2003 honorees for Women of the Year, this year Thomas will claim one of those awards. "Fame at last!" the eightysomething Thomas exclaimed yesterday through her rep. "Journalism has some rewards but I didn't know glamour was one of them."
With Anne Schroeder