Maryland lieutenant governor emeritus and former RNC chairman Michael Steele was briefly back in the news this week after unveiling a bold change to, well, his face.
It seems Steele, who proudly sported facial hair for more than 30 years, shaved off the mustache that had become something of a trademark for him. The ’stache in question contributed to Steele’s resemblance to a blue Muppet that was hassled by an inept waiter in a series of Sesame Street sketches — a likeness exploited to great comic effect by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” who went so far as to unleash a recurring “Puppet Michael Steele” character.
"Well here’s the deal. My mustache and my razor got into a fight, and I arrived too late to break it up. Consequently, the mustache got nicked up pretty bad and I had to put it down. Sad," Steele told Politico this week.
Public shock (of sorts) at Steele’s shave reverberated around the Twitterverse.
“Okay. I was not ready for a non-mustached Michael Steele. Its (sic) creeping me out ...” wrote one user. “How do we determine if Michael Steele is cool now?” asked another.
Relax, folks. It’s a renewable resource.
— Daniel Leaderman
Kittleman for HoCo?
Allan Kittleman told supporters Wednesday that he is eyeing a run for Howard County executive in 2014.
Kittleman, a Republican, has served in the state Senate since 2004 and previously spent six years on the Howard County Council. He said he’s been encouraged by recent polling numbers suggesting he could defeat Democratic contenders.
“Not only am I viable, but I’m winning against [Guy Guzzone] and [Council member Courtney Watson],” Kittleman told MarylandReporter.com, adding that projections put him 20 points ahead. He acknowledged, however, that if he couldn’t raise the money he wouldn’t put his family through the ordeal of a campaign.
Kittleman would replace term-limited Democrat Ken Ulman, who is rumored to have his eye on the governor’s office.
— Daniel Leaderman
Ups and downs abound
Maryland may have succeeded in lessening student achievement gaps between races and income levels, but it remains below the national average when it comes to some areas of college and career preparation.
At least that’s what a study released this month shows.
Among the findings in the study, conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board:
ź Maryland students score lower on SATs than the national average, and average scores have decreased since 2006 — from 1511 to 1492.
ź The percentage of students who completed career pathways and met college or career readiness goals was lower in Maryland than in the Southern states studied.
ź Starting teachers in Maryland make more than $1,000 less than the U.S. average, when adjusted for cost of living.
ź Since 1999, the four-year high school graduation rate in Maryland has remained higher than in the U.S., at 80 percent compared with 76 percent.
ź While the percentage of graduating seniors who took an AP exam nearly doubled — from 24 percent to 46 percent — a lower percentage passed. Still, Maryland has the highest AP passing rate in the nation.
What to make of all this?
— Jen Bondeson
Going way backThe Marriott brothers, Bethesda’s own hotel magnates, continue pumping money into the super PAC supporting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Back in January and March, both J.W. Marriott Jr., then CEO and chairman of Marriott International — since retired as CEO, but still chairman — and his brother, Richard E. Marriott, chairman of the family company spinoff Host Hotels & Resorts, each gave $250,000 in each month to Restore Our Future.
And this month, according to federal election data, each brother contributed $500,000 more to the super PAC.
That’s a grand total of $2 million from the Marriotts to help put their old family friend in the White House.
The Marriott-Romney ties are long and deep. Romney previously was a board member of Marriott International. And his given first name, Willard, comes from the Marriotts’ father, who was close friends with Romney’s dad, former Michigan governor George Romney.
At this rate, we can probably expect at least one more round of Marriott mega-cash replenishing the super PAC’s coffers before November’s election.
— Robert Rand
Woman’s best friend
Del. Heather R. Mizeur is used to the spotlight from her work on environmental and marriage equality issues, but her latest effort on a joint legislative task force on pit bulls has garnered attention for her dog, Chester.
The Takoma Park legislator took Chester, a rescue dog of indeterminate breed, to her Annapolis when she attended this week’s task force meeting. Chester slept on the couch in her office. Then, during a later walk, an NBC television reporter asked to interview them.
“He's demanding makeup and wardrobe for future interviews,” Mizeur joked on her Facebook page.
On a serious note, the pet owner also has a problem with the Maryland Court of Appeals’ recent ruling labeling an entire dog breed inherently dangerous.
“[Chester] is a rescue dog that we adopted at 6 months and we're not entirely sure of his breed. Under the court's ruling, if I was a renter, my landlord could serve me an eviction notice if he/she suspected my dog to be a pit bull mixed breed,” Mizeur said. “People shouldn't have to choose between their homes and a beloved (well-behaved) family pet. We're going to fix this.”
— C. Benjamin Ford
Naming rightsOklahoma may be far from the Chesapeake Bay, but that didn’t stop the founder of Chesapeake Energy Corp. from naming his natural gas company after it. Aubrey McClendon, who founded the company in 1989, named it Chesapeake Energy because he fell in love with the Chesapeake Bay region when he visited, said Brian L. Grove, the senior director of corporate development.
Chesapeake Energy was in the news in Maryland recently when the company agreed to pay $500,000 to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to monitor water quality after negotiations with Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler about a natural gas drilling blowout last year in Pennsylvania.
The April 19, 2011, incident at the Chesapeake Energy well resulted in fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to be released into the Towanda Creek in Pennsylvania. The creek flows into the Susquehanna River in Maryland, and the Susquehanna is a major tributary of the Bay. Hopefully, McClendon’s love of the Chesapeake region will extend upstream as well.
— C. Benjamin Ford