Against Smoking and Taxes Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is asked about taxes just about everywhere he goes on the campaign trail, but he wasn't expecting the one yesterday from the eighth-grader at Southeast Middle School in Baltimore.
If elected governor, asked the boy in the blue football jersey, would you raise taxes on cigarettes?
Ehrlich did a double-take.
"You don't smoke, do you?" he asked.
The kid shook his head no.
"You don't intend to smoke, do you?"
The boy shook his head again.
"Then why do you care?" Ehrlich asked.
The student's mother smokes, it turned out. Ehrlich assured the boy he had no intention of raising cigarette taxes.
Ehrlich taught the eighth-grade social studies class at the school yesterday morning as part of Teach for America Week 2002, part of an effort to improve education opportunities in low-income communities. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Ehrlich's Democratic opponent, is scheduled to teach a class at another Baltimore school today.
Ehrlich took to the chalkboard to describe his work as a congressman and fielded questions from the students.
One asked whether it was true that members of Congress did nothing but relax while their staff did all the work. "You've been watching too much TV," Ehrlich replied.
Ehrlich did not mince words in describing his work. "I deal with really controversial issues like abortion and gun control and war and peace," he said.
He also hammered home the message that drugs were to blame for the fire-bombing last week of a home in East Baltimore that claimed the lives of a family of seven.
"Kids. Your age," he said, looking at the somber students. "Just killed them."
Rivals Share an Endorsement In Maryland's 8th Congressional District, the American Federation of Government Employees has endorsed incumbent Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella and her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr.
As the largest union representing federal employees, thousands of whom live in the district, AFGE is a powerful interest group with sway over an important constituency.
Both campaigns labeled the rare dual endorsement a victory.
Van Hollen's camp noted that the union had never before endorsed an opponent of Morella, who has made her work on behalf of federal employees a cornerstone of her campaigns.
"We have said for years that if a candidate with a glowing record of achievement ran against Connie Morella people would flock to him, and we are delighted that AFGE has honored him in this way," a campaign official said.
Morella's campaign spun the announcement this way: "We got endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, and we're thrilled."
AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage Sr. said that Van Hollen compiled a "very promising" record in the state Senate and that his victory would "mean one less vote in favor of retaining the rabidly anti-federal employee and anti-union House Republican leadership in the 108th Congress."
At the same time, he praised Morella as a "courageous leader in the fight to defend the collective bargaining rights of homeland security employees." Morella sided with the union against President Bush on legislation creating a new Department of Homeland Security that labor leaders believed would weaken the rights of federal employees.
Finance Violations Alleged Audrey E. Scott, the Republican candidate for Prince George's County executive, has accused her Democratic opponent of accepting campaign contributions in violation of state law and wants the Maryland Board of Elections to investigate.
In a formal complaint filed Tuesday, Scott alleged that State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson accepted contributions exceeding the $4,000 legal limit: $8,000 from National Insurance Consultants of Las Vegas, $7,500 from J.B. Jenkins Funeral Home of Landover and $5,000 from Libby Agarwa of Mitchellville, as reported by the Friends of Jack Johnson.
"This is just another example of Johnson's contempt and indifference for our laws," Scott said in a statement.
But Johnson's treasurer, Shailender Gupta, said yesterday that the campaign had discovered the oversize contributions and made refunds to the Las Vegas and Mitchellville donors. He said a $3,500 refund check was in the mail to the funeral home. "We are not trying to violate any law here," he said.
Ross Goldstein, director of the candidacy and campaign finance law division of the state Board of Elections, said his office would send letters to the donors and Johnson seeking an explanation. Their responses and the other information will be given to the state special prosecutor, who could pursue civil or criminal action, Goldstein said.
Scott also complained to Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. Assistant Attorney General Judith A. Armold, who is also counsel for election laws, said her office sometimes recommends no prosecution if the violation was inadvertent and the campaign returned the excess amount.
Compiled from reports by staff writers Jo Becker, Eugene L. Meyer and Steve Vogel.