Unrest within the Maryland Democratic Party was supposed to be put on hold this week, at least while loyalists were in Boston to participate in the formal nomination of John F. Kerry as their candidate for president.
But it seems it couldn't be avoided altogether.
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said she was already feeling on the outs when she learned recently that she would not be among the party's official delegates. Then, after being wooed to come to Boston anyway, she got more bad news from the state party's executive director.
"Josh White called and told me he was virtually certain he could not get me credentials to get on the floor," Owens said. "So I said, 'Well, there's no need for me to come all the way up there. I have a lot of important work to be doing here at home.' "
White said that although it would have proved difficult to get Owens onto the floor, he would have had no problem getting her credentialed to get into the Fleet Center itself. And he said he was disappointed the arrangements did not work out.
"We obviously regret that she didn't come," White said. "She would have been a great addition to the delegation. We could have used her energy and her commitment to the party."
Owens said the episode points to a persistent problem between the party and its more conservative members, who are in counties that have not always sided with the Democrats.
Howard County Executive James N. Robey, for instance, was also not among the delegates.
"Of course it's not helpful," Owens said. "It is so important that the party come together. But in the end, I feel like we just have to work for the ticket. We're not going to solve all the state party's issues at once."
Discord in the party has led a group of progressives to plan a summit aimed at unity. State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said he thinks the party is experiencing a vacuum in leadership. "Since the Democrats were deposed," he said, "there was no one in a position to redefine the party. There was no one playing the supreme voice of the party." Some Democratic leaders, most recently the majority whip of the House of Delegates, George W. Owings III (Calvert), have abandoned their elected posts to join Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration. Owings is now secretary of veterans affairs.
Party Chairman Isiah Leggett said in an interview before the convention that "there's no question we have been going in different directions as a party." But he had hoped the convention, and the presidential race that will follow, would help unify Democrats.
Republicans in the Democratic stronghold of Montgomery County combined a pep rally Sunday for President Bush's reelection campaign with a tribute to American troops fighting in Iraq and other hot spots.
"They're taking the war to the terrorists so we don't have to fight the war on the streets of Bethesda," Dan Willard, a co-chairman of the Montgomery County Bush-Cheney Steering Committee, told about 75 party activists gathered in a bricked plaza across the street from a Starbucks.
Willard helped start the event with a skit in which he portrayed former president Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger,who has been in the news lately for taking copies of classified documents from the National Archives.
Willard, pretending to be absent-minded, started to look for his speech, checking first in his socks and then in his pants pockets. The crowd seemed to delight in the bit, at least for its first few minutes.
The featured speaker at the afternoon gathering was Mohammed Odeh Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who has been credited with tipping off the Marines to the location of prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. Rehaief, wearing a Bush-Cheney sticker, blew kisses to the crowd and said, "The troops are the heroes."
Rehaief has recounted his experiences in a book, and an NBC made-for-TV movie based partly on his account was produced last fall.
The task of introducing Rehaief fell to Charles "Chuck" Floyd, a Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Perhaps Floyd had some other movie in mind as he did so. He twice referred to Lynch as "Jessica Lange," an actress whose credits include "Big Fish" and "Blue Sky."
Floyd is continuing to get help in his bid from members of the Ehrlich administration. Ehrlich (R) appeared with Floyd at a fundraiser last month. Aris Melissaratos, Ehrlich's secretary for business and economic development, and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) were scheduled to help Floyd raise money this week.