As Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend prepares for a run at Maryland's top job in 2002, national Democrats are doing their part to help her out.

Townsend is a co-host this month of the annual meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council, which was founded in 1985 as an effort to move the Democratic Party away from its liberal roots toward more centrist politics.

The meeting will be held July 14 and 15 in Baltimore, the first time it has been held outside Washington. The conference, billed as "the National Conversation," will focus on building leadership for the next century. DLC President Al Fromm said one of the biggest reasons for the Maryland location is Townsend, who already is taking an increased role in the second term of Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).

"We decided to come to Baltimore, in large part, because Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a national leader in the New Democrat movement," Fromm said. "Her landmark work on crime, community service and character education serve as a national model to New Democrats in all parts of the country."

Sounding very much like a candidate, Townsend told those gathered for a news announcement: "The grass-roots revolution is about more than pragmatism and effectiveness. At its heart, it is about restoring citizens and communities to their rightful place in our political process."

Curry Fund-Raiser Crowded

For a county executive who is supposed to have had his share of run-ins with other politicians, Prince George's Wayne K. Curry surely had no problem packing them in last week at his annual barbecue fund-raiser at the Newton White Mansion in Mitchellville.

More than 2,100 people turned out for the $25-a-ticket event, including some folks who were reportedly on the outs with Curry (D) during last fall's election season. Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) was on hand with the man he beat, former senator Decatur W. Trotter. Trotter had been on Curry's ticket. Del. Kerry Hill (D-Prince George's) rubbed elbows with the man whose vacated seat he took, former delegate C. Anthony Muse. Muse's race with Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's) was one of the season's most bitter and had Curry butting heads with Lawlah. Curry had put all of his chips on Muse.

But all of that had been swept aside for a night in which Curry declared: "My team is prospering. If we will come together and be supportive, if we work together, Prince George's will continue . . . to astound everyone who is watching it."

This was the second fund-raiser Curry has thrown this month, continuing to foster speculation that he has his eye on a larger statewide office when his term expires in 2002.

But Curry didn't bite when some in the crowd started to chant, "Run for governor, run for governor, run for governor." Curry left open the idea, simply telling those on the mansion's patio that he had to "figure out what to do with myself."

And speaking of the governor's race, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eileen M. Rehrmann was there. So was Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger III, whom party insiders also have mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in the 2002 election.

Ruppersberger joined Curry at the microphone for a little banter, a pairing that some insiders have mentioned as a possible ticket in a little more than three years. He told Curry he has done "one heck of a job."

Ruppersberger also teased Curry that he was "showing off" by holding two large fund-raisers in the span of a month.

A Bridesmaid Again

Montgomery County is feeling a little like the Buffalo Bills, the NFL franchise most famous for consistently reaching the Super Bowl but never winning it. But Buffalo actually has done something Montgomery has been unable to: win the distinction of All-America City.

For the second straight year, "Greater Montgomery County, Md." failed to make the jump from "finalist" to "winner" in the All-America City contest sponsored by the National Civic League. Among the 10 communities considered more "all-American" than Montgomery and its three municipalities are Rocky Mount, N.C.; Tupelo, Miss.; Greater Green Bay, Wis.; and Wichita.

The award means little more than bragging rights and the right to use the "All-America City" distinction on letterheads, public signs and other promotional material. But the loss hurts a little nonetheless.

Montgomery officials had predicted success before traveling to Philadelphia last weekend for the award announcement. The delegation was made up of about 120 civic boosters and public officials, including County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who had more sanguine expectations than last year.

The difference this year was that Rockville had signed onto the application. Contest judges care deeply about how the different jurisdictions get along, and the omission of the largest city within county lines doomed the bid last year.

No one is exactly sure what happened this year, though part of the problem may be that Greater Montgomery has always been a relatively wealthy, low-crime, high-amenity place to live. Some of its successful rivals for the award -- Lowell, Mass., for example, or Union City, Calif. -- have not, and judges love up-by-the-bootstraps stories. The Bronx, N.Y., was a winner two years ago.

Other postgame explanations for the loss are simpler.

"The competition was much tougher this year," Duncan said. "I saw it, and knew right away it was going to be tough to win. But we have a lot to be proud of, and we're talking about trying again next year."

Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.