An item in the Jan. 9 Montgomery Notebook incorrectly described the nature of a dinner being held in honor of Mark K. Shriver in Potomac on Feb. 10. The event is a tribute, and the $40 charge will be used only to cover the cost of the dinner. (Published 1/16/03)
Michael Barnes was the last Democrat to represent Montgomery County in the House of Representatives, so he has some sense of what Christopher Van Hollen Jr. is about to face, now that he has been sworn into Congress.
"You have all the school groups and Boy Scout troops who can get on the subway to see you, and they do. You're a local phone call away, and they call," said Barnes, who served from 1979 to 1987. "The time demands are just beyond belief."
It didn't take long to see the first evidence of that. On Tuesday, at a reception thrown on Capitol Hill to watch Van Hollen take the oath of office, the freshly minted congressman was swarmed by constituents.
Some 600 well-wishers flocked from Montgomery County to Capitol Hill and wedged their way into the Judiciary Committee hearing room (which has capacity for 300). Before long, the party had spilled out into the Rayburn House Office Building hallway.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) warmed up the crowd, telling them, "If you've got complaints about snowplowing, trash pickup or barking dogs, now you can call Chris Van Hollen. After all, in Montgomery County these are all national issues!"
On a more serious note, Duncan said he will be making more frequent trips to Capitol Hill now that a Democrat is representing the county. Other well-wishers, such as Annapolis lobbyist Gary Alexander and Maryland Del. Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery), said they, too, planned to visit Van Hollen about issues of importance to them.
Although the event was mostly packed with longtime Van Hollen supporters, there was a chance to witness a touch of fence-mending.
Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams squeezed his way through the throngs to greet the congressman, and made no mention, of course, of his controversial decision to help hold a fundraiser for former representative Constance A. Morella (R). That gesture back in April had piqued state and national Democrats working to oust the entrenched incumbent.
"I want to stand with him," Williams said. "I have tremendous respect for his accomplishments."
Also making an appearance was Ira Shapiro, one of the three Democrats who ran against Van Hollen during the bitter 2002 primary. Shapiro said he came to pay his respects, and noted that his goal, from the beginning, was to see a Democrat take back the seat that Morella had held for 16 years.
"I'm delighted to help him celebrate," Shapiro said.
Shapiro said in a brief interview that he has not abandoned the idea of running for elected office, though he does not yet have a specific post in mind. In the meantime, the former Clinton trade administrator said he is working as a consultant to Tobacco Free Kids, helping the advocacy group take a global approach to its fight against cigarettes.
Van Hollen's other main primary foe, former Del. Mark K. Shriver, was not present, although several of his early supporters were. However, Shriver's name was spotted on the Maryland Democratic Party Web site. The Democrats are promoting a Feb. 10 dinner in Potomac to honor Shriver, and are charging $40 a person to help him retire his campaign debt.
A large crowd of Montgomery County politicians turned out last week to mourn the sudden death of Phyllis Campbell Newsome, who had spent the past four years hosting "21 This Week," a Montgomery County community cable program devoted to local issues.
Newsome died on her 40th birthday, Dec. 26, at Georgetown University Hospital. She had acute respiratory distress syndrome, a complication of the birth Dec. 6 of a premature daughter, Summer Marie Newsome, who died Dec. 9.
Her day job was as community relations and advocacy director for the Washington Council of Agencies, a coalition of 800 nonprofit and social services organizations. But in Montgomery, she was remembered for her efforts to turn African Americans and charitable groups into a powerful political force.
She was a charter member of the African American Democratic Club, and was the primary force behind the first nonprofit conference ever held in Montgomery County, two years ago.
"When you were looking to gauge public sentiment, she was someone you had to talk to," Duncan said.
He said the last time he spoke with Newsome was when she called to chide him for not doing enough to support her husband, Robert "Bo" Newsome, in his recent unsuccessful bid for the Maryland House of Delegates.
"I got a response to her right away," he said, noting that that response included a campaign donation. "You always liked helping her."
County Council Vice President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) said one of Newsome's lasting legacies will be the clout now wielded by Montgomery County's sizable community of nonprofit groups.
"They got together to say, 'We provide thousands of jobs, we provide services the government can't provide, and we want people to take notice,' " Silverman said. "She made that happen."
No Stopping Gordon Also last week, heartache of another sort for friends of Del. Michael R. Gordon (D-Montgomery), 55, who publicly announced he is being treated for the effects of Parkinson's disease.
As the Maryland General Assembly's 90-day session got underway yesterday, Gordon said he had no plans to limit his activity in Annapolis. He will not only remain active as the new chairman of the House Spending Affordability Committee, but said he also will continue the tradition of taking a two-mile morning walk through the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy.
So why the announcement?
"I just decided to put it out there," Gordon said. "I didn't want people to wonder. And since I've made the announcement, people have sent notes, they've said they were with me. It's nice to have that kind of encouragement."
As for the prognosis, Gordon said "the doctor thinks I'm doing pretty good. Both my uncles had this, and they lived into their seventies or eighties."