Two weeks before the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Maryland Acting Gov. Blair Lee III has begun a courtship of the women of his state with wine, cheese, and the first issue paper released by his campaign.
It started Friday evening with a reception for 125 women at the Governor's Mansion, at which Lee promised to appoint at least one woman to his cabinet if elected and said that one of the women activists at the party was soon to receive a judicial appointment - but he would not say who she was.
Yesterday both Lee and his running mate, state Senate President Steny H. Hoyer, released five-page, "profiles on women's issues" papers, for the first time in their campaign.
Repeatedly during this campaign, Lee has said he would not release the mountains of issue papers other candidates write because "no one ever bothers to read them." The exception is the profile on women's issues, two sets of documents detailing his and Hoyer's record on laws affecting women and appointment of women.
Hoyer highlighted the laws that grew out of his special committee on rape and related offenses for the General Assembly and his work leading to the repeal of criminal abortion laws and the enactment of the Equal Rights Amendment. Lee included his appointment of two women to his professional staff, a woman judge to the Prince George's County Circuit Court bench and three women to his statehouse staff.
The mansion reception was marred by a dispute over two women lobbying outside the mansion for an opponent of Lee, Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis.
Ann Stockett, Venetoulis' running mate, had issued a statement that afternoon calling the reception a "token bash of women" and two of her supporters passed out leaflets promoting her ticket until Annapolis city police arrived. Apparently they were called by statehouse guards who thought the leafleteers were violating the law.
"I though (lobbying) was in poor taste," said Bruce Bereano, a Hoyer aide who attended the party. "Yes, the women had chutzpah but they should let us have a party on our own."
A Prince George's County politics, working for the Lee-Hoyer ticket said that some of Venetoulis' strongest support is among blue-collar housewives throughout the state and wives in Montgomery County.
"Lee and Hoyer have the record on women's issues and I thought it should be made public," said Pat McGrath, explaining why the papers were released to the press.