The club level lounge at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore was filled with politicians, business suits and political rhetoric Monday night when Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry dropped by to rally his Maryland troops.
"We have four months! Four months to undo four years and to write the history of the next four," Kerry said. "This is the most important election of our lifetime, and that is not something that I throw at people. . . . People all over this country are telling me this."
Kerry was welcomed to the podium after passionate speeches by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (Md.) and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
While optimism abounded at the stadium, where more than 500 donors raised more than $1 million for the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party, some African American leaders voiced concerns about the Massachusetts senator's connection to minority voters.
"I think he has a winning campaign in terms of the themes, but in terms of blacks and Hispanics, we have to know what is his stand on diversity," said Mildred Glover, assistant dean of the School of Business and Management at Morgan State University. "They need more blacks, more Hispanics [in] higher profile so people can see them and know that he is working on diversity."
Kerry recently hired an African American and alumnus of Morgan State, Terry Edmonds, who wrote speeches for President Bill Clinton. Even so, some politicians acknowledge a lack of enthusiasm for Kerry.
"The excitement is not there yet because we have not seen [Kerry's] presence in all of our communities, and that is the piece that we have to work on in the next four months," said state Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Baltimore County). "Get him out in our community. We don't have to tell black folks that we need a change. They know it, but we need him to come out and work hard."
On Monday night, only about 700 invited guests were allowed through several security checkpoints, up a steep escalator and beyond a rope where there were cocktails, finger food and chances for photos with the candidate.
While Kerry's aides kept the media behind a rope, many politicians came up and chatted with the corralled members of the fourth estate anyway.
"People are tired of seeing George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft. They are looking for a change in direction," said Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). "I have never seen so much enthusiasm and grass-roots support for change in an administration since I have been in public office."
O'Malley, who hosted the event, publicly endorsed former Vermont governor Howard Dean last fall. On Monday, though, he was strongly in Kerry's camp, as were Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
Too Much Information?
State Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. (D-Prince George's) has sent out a regular stream of news releases over the past year announcing everything from his plans to attend a symposium on child support to a speech he made at a telecommunications conference.
Giannetti's most recent offering, one that he wrote himself, may be his most unorthodox.
"Senator and Mrs. Giannetti Return from Honeymoon Rested," read the headline.
Over the next eight paragraphs, Giannetti, 40, reported that he and Erin Appel, 25, were married on an island off Florida on June 5 before flying to Greece for a two-week vacation.
"The couple sunned themselves daily on the beautiful Mediterranean beaches and have arrived back state-side with deep tans," Giannetti wrote.
He added: "The local island residents reportedly enjoyed Erin's bikinis much more than John's black Speedo."
Giannetti e-mailed the news release to more than 60 journalists.
The senator said he decided to send out the announcement after a reporter called asking what he had been up to. Giannetti assumed others were wondering the same.
"I decided, 'Let's do the release and let them know I'm back,' " Giannetti said, adding that it took him 20 minutes to compose the announcement. "It was stream of consciousness."
The slew of details included that the bride "wore a white wedding gown of her own design" and that the groom dressed in "a white linen suit and white shirt."
Bridesmaids "were adorned in strapless pink dresses," the senator wrote, "while groomsmen wore yellow wedding shirts and linen drawstring trousers."
The vacation was relaxing, the senator reported, but there was that "minor scooter accident" that threw him "headfirst into a stone wall" (he's fine).
Giannetti has earned a reputation as an energetic and ambitious lawmaker since he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1998. He ousted Sen. Arthur Dorman in 2002 in a district that includes parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.
Giannetti's first marriage several years ago lasted three months before ending in divorce. He said he had no trepidation about giving marriage another try.
"Our ring is made of titanium," he said. "I hope [the marriage] lasts as long as the ring does."
Press on the Move
First, the newspaper boxes were removed from the State House in Annapolis. Security concerns, administration officials assured.
Now the entire press corps is being removed from the cozy digs in the basement of the building. It's the pipes, said Boyd K. Rutherford, secretary of general services, in an e-mail to State House reporters Monday.
"The heating, chilled water and potable water piping in the building are showing considerable degradation of the inner and outer pipe walls thicknesses," Rutherford wrote.
The press offices, crammed with computers, phones and file cabinets from more than four decades of reporting, must be vacated and left in "broom clean condition" by July 15. For three years, the offices will be used as "swing space" for government workers displaced by construction elsewhere.
The offices, provided free, afford reporters easy access to the legislature and to lawmakers and administration officials walking through the halls. Administration officials say the eviction has nothing to do with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s thorny relationship with the media.
Busch, the House speaker, questioned the wisdom of the move. "Part of the public access issue here is you have a vibrant and diverse media that has direct access to the issues and the individuals in the state government," he said, adding that the move would be particularly hard on smaller news outlets that don't have the resources to find additional office space.
And he was upset that the administration didn't run the plan by him, the Senate president or other officials overseeing the State House. "There might be some other options we haven't explored," he said. "I think they jumped the gun."
Staff writer Christian Davenport contributed to this report.