5 Mayoral Candidates Square Off Tonight

Five major Democratic candidates for D.C. mayor are scheduled to face off tonight at the University of the District of Columbia in the first citywide forum of the 2006 political season.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, council members Adrian M. Fenty (Ward 4) and Vincent B. Orange Sr. (Ward 5), lobbyist Michael A. Brown and former telecommunications executive Marie C. Johns have accepted invitations to the forum, which is being sponsored by the D.C. Affairs Section of the D.C. Bar.

Section co-chairman James Bubar said the bar began working on the event about the time Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) began signaling his intention to retire. "Especially now that Mayor Williams has decided not to run, there's a great interest in learning more about who these candidates are," Bubar said.

More than 500 people are expected to attend the free event, far more than the bar originally planned for. As a result, Bubar said, the event has been moved to the university's main auditorium on Veazey Street NW. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the forum begins at 6:30.

Yesterday, the husband of perennial mayoral candidate Faith complained that she had been excluded. Bubar said only candidates who registered to raise funds with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance were invited.


VDOT to Sell Complex Near Wilson Bridge

The Virginia Department of Transportation agreed Friday to sell back the 115-unit Hunting Terrace apartment complex in Alexandria to its previous owner, Kay Management Co., for an undisclosed amount. The sale will be finalized Feb. 23.

The two-story garden apartments and the high-rise Hunting Towers, which sit just across Washington Street south of Old Town, have been at the center of a debate pitting city, state and federal agencies, environmental groups and affordable housing advocates against one another.

The aging buildings, built in the 1940s and 1950s, sit on some of the last waterfront property ripe for development in the area, making the land potentially worth millions. At the same time, the apartments are part of an ever-shrinking pool of buildings with affordable rents, city leaders say, as others are converted into condos or demolished in the hot real estate market.

VDOT bought the land surrounding both apartment complexes for $95 million in 2001, as the project to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge got underway. Its plan has always been to sell them at top dollar once the bridge was close to completion and use the funds to help pay for the massive project.

In the purchase agreement, Kay Management agreed to provide Hunting Terrace residents who have month-to-month leases, expired leases or leases that will expire before Dec. 31 the opportunity to sign one-year leases at their current rental rate.

Negotiations continue between VDOT and Kay Management on the sale of Hunting Towers.

"These are delicate negotiations," said Wilson Bridge project spokesman John Undeland. "We're talking about properties that are worth tens of millions of dollars."


Leggett Wins Endorsements in Race

Isiah Leggett, a Democratic candidate for Montgomery County executive next year, announced yesterday that he has been endorsed by four County Council members and former county executives Sidney Kramer and Neal Potter.

Leggett, the former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the endorsements demonstrate his broad appeal. Council President Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) and members Michael L. Subin (D-At Large), Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County) are also supporting Leggett.

Leggett, who was on the council from 1986 to 2002, is competing against council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) for the Democratic nomination.

Former Priest Pleads Guilty to Abuse

A former Catholic priest pleaded guilty yesterday to sexually abusing a high school student in Baltimore County in 1987.

Jerome F. Toohey Jr. faces up to 15 years in prison for abusing the student from 1987 to 1988 when Toohey was a priest and chaplain at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

The John Carroll High School student first accused Toohey of sexual child abuse in 1993. A civil lawsuit brought by that student against Toohey was dismissed because state law requires that civil suits be filed within three years of an alleged incident. There is no statute of limitations for filing felony criminal charges.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore removed Toohey from the ministry after the allegations of abuse of the student surfaced.

Ehrlich Announces Help With Energy Bills

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is expanding a program meant to help low-income Marylanders with their energy costs, which are expected to be unusually high this winter, in part because of the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Ehrlich joined representatives from Constellation Energy Group and its utility, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., yesterday to announce $13 million in funding to help people pay their bills and for energy conservation programs.

Constellation Energy will make a total of $26 million available for financial assistance and conservation efforts.

The governor also called on the federal government to increase its funding to help low-income Marylanders.

Under the program, known as "Project Heat Up," the state will expand eligibility for energy assistance to 175 percent of the poverty level, up from 150 percent. That will increase by 60,000 the number of households potentially eligible for aid to a total of 345,000.

The application period for households runs from Jan. 15 to March 31, 2006.

Inmate's Attorneys Seek Stay of Execution

Attorneys for a man scheduled to be put to death in Maryland next month have asked a judge for another stay of execution.

But a prosecutor said the attorneys' arguments have been rejected before and should be thrown out again.

The appeal, which was filed Monday, is based on a study conducted for the state that showed murderers are more likely to be sentenced to death if they are black and their victims are white.

Wesley E. Baker, who is black, was sentenced to death for killing Jane Tyson, a 49-year-old white woman he shot to death in 1992 in front of her two young grandchildren in a parking lot robbery that netted $10. The study also found that a death sentence was much more likely to be sought in Baltimore County, where Baker shot his victim, than in other counties and Baltimore.

"I get it. But I get confused at times."

-- Trayshawn Wright, 14, about the Algebra 1 class

she is taking at Largo High School. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Tim Craig, Lori Montgomery and Brigid Schulte and the Associated Press.