Maryland Republicans have accused Democratic candidates for governor of trying to take political advantage of Hurricane Katrina.

Now Democrats are wondering about Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s decision to fly Jefferson Parish, La., President Aaron Broussard -- at taxpayers' expense -- to Baltimore last week to attend an Orioles game.

Ehrlich's press staff sent out a media advisory hyping Broussard's presence at the game and noting that "Maryland deployed hundreds of military, first responder, law enforcement and medical professionals to Jefferson Parish in the wake of Katrina."

Turns out, Ehrlich had hoped the military would shuttle Broussard to the ballgame on one of the Maryland National Guard's C-130s.

Maj. Charles Kohler, a Maryland National Guard spokesman, said state officials asked Monday whether the Guard could transport Broussard from Louisiana and back. The Guard has been flying supplies, troops and support staff to the gulf region.

Kohler said the request was denied by the National Guard Bureau because it was against regulations.

"It was turned down because there were commercial flights available," Kohler said. "We weren't authorized to do it."

Jeff Welsh, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said he made arrangements instead for Broussard and three aides to fly Delta Airlines to the ballgame and to return the next morning on American Airlines. With hotel stays at the Inner Harbor, the tab for the visit was roughly $5,200, Welsh said.

But the visit was not purely promotional, Welsh said. The morning after the ballgame, the Louisiana delegation stopped on the way to the airport to give a briefing to Maryland emergency management officials that lasted 60 to 90 minutes, Welsh said.

Parsing Gatsby

As he kicked off his campaign for governor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) clashed last week with his hometown paper over differing interpretations of a literary classic.

O'Malley began his announcement day with a speech in Rockville, the Montgomery County municipality in which he grew up. O'Malley addressed a crowd that included family and friends, and closed with the following quote: "And 'so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.' "

A front-page article in the Baltimore Sun identified the quote as the final lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" -- and poked fun at O'Malley for using it. The book, "scholars agree, is about the death of the American dream and the closing of the frontier," the Sun reported. "The last line means that Americans are chained to their past -- a shackle that keeps them from the future they most desire. It's melancholy, and depressing."

During an appearance in Annapolis later in the week, O'Malley said he didn't see the quote that way, despite the scholars quoted by the Sun -- including one from his alma mater -- bolstering the paper's interpretation.

"I chose it knowing full well it was Gatsby," O'Malley said. "I see in that quote a perseverance and progress and optimism despite struggling as an individual, realizing the entire time that you're mortal."

As for the Sun, "they never liked my band, either," the mayor said, referring to O'Malley's March, the Irish rock band from which he is semi-retired.

Rales Ready to File

Joshua Rales, a Potomac businessman, will become the latest Maryland Senate candidate when he files papers with the Maryland State Board of Elections tomorrow, an associate said. Rales is planning a more formal announcement of his bid later on.

Next year's race to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D) has already drawn five other Democrats, the best-known of whom are Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and former congressman and former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume, both of Baltimore.

Townsend to Reappear

Former lieutenant governor and gubernatorial hopeful Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is scheduled to make a rare political appearance tonight on behalf of Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery).

Townsend has kept a low profile since losing the 2002 election to Ehrlich, leaving Democrats to relinquish the governor's mansion for the first time in 36 years.