Friday, May 30, 2008

Reporter’s Notebook: It’s not who’s up or down, it’s who’s hot and who’s not

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Here’s one poll that we hope makes it to Annapolis.

A Web site on Utah state politics dubbed ‘‘Elected Hotties” asks visitors to select the most attractive legislators — male and female — in the Beehive State.

‘‘People always want to know if their elected officials are using tax money wisely. They want to know how they vote on the issues. That stuff is nice,” the site reads. ‘‘But we just want to figure out who is hotter.”

A new poll is released each week with nominees at the county and state levels. The site apparently hasn’t caught on yet. Last week’s survey had 12 votes. This week’s had only nine tallies. Winners advance to the next round in the bracket-style tournament to determine Utah’s most attractive pol.

Maybe it no longer matters who’s the most effective lawmaker, but who can shake their moneymaker?

— Alan Brody

Cardin’s court jester

Attorneys aren’t often called upon for comic relief.

Most legal eagles, however, don’t have Hammad Matin’s funny bone. The former Charles County assistant state’s attorney delivered a comedy routine a few weeks ago at the Democratic Party’s annual Truman-Kennedy dinner that left some in the crowd wondering if the 32-year-old missed his true calling.

Much of his act was self-deprecating, revolving around his part-time role as Southern Maryland field director for Ben Cardin, who happened to be sitting a few feet away as the evening’s keynote speaker.

‘‘I want you to know that tonight I’m not working for the senator,” he told the crowd in his opening remarks. ‘‘I’m just Hammad Matin, so senator, tonight you have to get your own damn coffee.”

‘‘I’ll probably lose my job tonight,” he joked.

Of course, he tried to make up for it by announcing the head table was the first to be served dinner (‘‘I want a raise,” he appealed to Cardin.)

After dinner, he tried to promote his budding law practice reminding guests that the bar was still open.

‘‘As you know, I’m a lawyer so I can encourage you to drink fast and drive faster,” he cracked, acknowledging the presence of Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey. ‘‘That was a joke! I’m going to lose my job now. I’m very opposed to drunk driving and so is Senator Cardin.”

Few VIPs got off scot free, although Mike Miller was nearly untouchable. ‘‘I was going to make some jokes about him, but Senator Miller is very powerful,” Matin said. ‘‘One phone call and he can have you deported.”

That only set up the punch line for Sally Jameson, who Matin forgot to introduce among the dozens of elected officials in attendance. ‘‘Now, who do I call to get you deported?” she cracked.

Miller, as always, got his revenge, referencing Matin’s former employer, Charles County State’s Attorney Len Collins. ‘‘If Hammad couldn’t cut it with Len Collins, he sure won’t cut it with Ben Cardin.”

Cardin, too, showed off his funny bone at the expense of his staffer.

‘‘In our office, we really do believe in interactive communication with the people of Maryland, so you can go to BenCardin.com and vote on whether Hammad should have a job on Monday morning,” he said, winning the biggest laughter of the evening.

— Alan Brody

Congrats

MoCo councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg will receive the Ally for Equality Award from Equality Maryland on Sunday.

The award — to be presented at the organization’s seventh annual Night Out for Equality Gala — is given to individuals for their leadership and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

Last year, Trachtenberg sponsored legislation prohibiting transgender discrimination in the county. The council unanimously approved the legislation in November, which was later signed by MoCo Exec Ike Leggett.

MoCo joined 13 states, 90 local jurisdictions and the District of Columbia in passing the law.

Also on Equality Maryland’s honoree list are the late Sen. Gwendolyn Britt, who will receive posthumously the Advocate for Equality Award for her work on same-sex marriage; Attorney General Doug Gansler, the first statewide elected official to support same-sex marriage; and Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams, an openly gay official in Maryland.

— Janel Davis

Moving on

Speaking of Equality Maryland, Executive Director Dan Furmansky announced Wednesday he will leave the organization at year’s end.

In five years as head of the gay rights organization, Furmansky has helped lead the fight for gay marriage in Maryland and has been a visible presence in Annapolis.

‘‘Serving at the helm of Equality Maryland has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Furmansky said in a statement.

Under Furmansky’s leadership, Equality Maryland’s budget and staff grew to include six full-time staffers and lobbyists.

The organization successfully advocated for laws extending the definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation and gender identity and requiring insurance companies to write health care benefits plans for domestic partners.

A bill signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley this month granted medical decision-making rights and real estate transfer tax exemptions to domestic partners.

‘‘Thanks in large part to Dan’s individual contributions, the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Maryland are immeasurably better than they were five years ago,” said Equality Maryland President Scott Davenport. ‘‘It is precisely because of the work Dan has done to build our organization that this will be an easy transition for us as we find the right person to take Equality Maryland into the future.”

Furmansky said he gave six months’ notice of his departure so he could focus on a challenge to a transgender anti-discrimination law passed in Montgomery County. On June 10, a Montgomery County Circuit Court is scheduled to hear Equality Maryland’s challenge to signatures on a petition taking the law to November’s ballot.

‘‘Five years is a nice run,” Furmansky said Thursday. ‘‘I’m looking for other ways to explore being a social justice leader.”

Furmansky said he is ‘‘going to be looking and thinking about consulting,” continuing writing and speaking on civil rights issues and hoping to be in Annapolis a bit.

‘‘I’m not giving up on [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] advocacy or progressive advocacy. I want to continue to challenge myself and make a difference in the world,” he said.

— Sean R. Sedam

Babs as veep

Political newspaper The Hill polled U.S. senators about whether they would want to be tapped as a vice presidential pick.

Hillary Clinton backer and Maryland senior senator Barbara Mikulski gave a tongue-in-cheek response.

‘‘Absolutely,” Mikulski was quoted as saying. ‘‘I think I would be great. First of all, I know how to behave at weddings and funerals. And I know how to be commander in chief. I’d bring a lot of fun to the job. We would rock the Naval Observatory.”

Mikulski on foreign policy trips — now that would be fun to see. ‘‘Now, Putin, sign the treaty, hon.”

— C. Benjamin Ford

Live from Israel

Want to know what Martin O’Malley and Co. have been up to this week in the Holy Land?

Look no further than Sandy Rosenberg’s online diary.

The Web-savvy delegate, who’s accompanying the guv on the trade mission, is documenting bits and pieces of the trip on his blog. It’s nothing new for the Baltimore Dem, whose online journal dates to the 2001 legislative session, including two previous Israel journeys.

Rosenberg’s presence on the mission focusing on the biotech industry makes sense since he sponsored legislation in 2006 creating Maryland’s embryonic stem cell research initiative.

He’s posted several times this week, mostly about his personal emotions, encounters with Israelis and visits to tourist attractions. To follow along, check out www.delsandy.com

— Alan Brody

You think you’ve got it tough

O’Malley’s job approval rating dropped to 37 percent in a statewide poll in March. But it doesn’t look like he’s in danger of losing his job.

The same cannot be said of the man O’Malley met with in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

O’Malley, on a trade mission with a 30-member delegation of Maryland state officials, businesspeople and Jewish leaders, visited with Olmert on the same day Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the head of Israel’s Labor Party, said Olmert should step down or face new elections amid allegations of corruption.

Olmert’s attention was focused elsewhere during the visit, according to a news release from O’Malley’s office that said the governor, at the prime minister’s request, briefed Olmert on the U.S. presidential election campaign.

Olmert told O’Malley: ‘‘Whoever is elected will be a friend of Israel,” according to the release.

— Sean R. Sedam

Young Dems raising money

Prince George’s County Young Democrats raised more than $6,000 at their annual organization dinner May 8.

Officials hope to use the money to drive up youth turnout in the 4th Congressional District special election, pay for tickets for young party members to attend the Democratic National Convention later this summer and help bring people to the polls in the Nov. 4 presidential vote.

The 200 attendees included Donna Edwards, a Fort Washington activist who defeated Congressman Al Wynn in the District 4 primary last February; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; delegates from across the county; and party leaders.

After his defeat, Wynn announced he would leave office this weekend — several months before the end of his term — to take a job with a Washington law firm. Edwards will square off with Republican Peter James in the special election June 17; the winner will serve out Wynn’s term but will need to win again in November to keep going past January.

The group honored three people with legislative awards at the banquet in Oxon Hill. Central committee liaison Julius Williams of New Carrollton was named Young Democrat of the Year, while Del. Dereck Davis was named legislator of the year.

The crowd also gave a posthumous award for distinguished service to Britt, who died in January from heart failure.

— Daniel Valentine

Together again?

Separated by party, tossed by the political tides and washing on shore at Dickstein Shapiro?

Rumors that Al Wynn will soon have a former top political foe (in theory at least) as a colleague at the mammoth law and lobbying firm are not off course.

Seems former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s ship is sailing toward Dickstein Shapiro, too.

‘‘Trust me, no one wants the deal more than me,” said Andrew Zausner, partner at the firm who heads its Government, Law and Strategies group.

Wynn will go to work there Monday, as already announced, Zausner said.

Might the two wind up in the same orientation session?

‘‘Our orientation for big Kahunas doesn’t work that way,” Zausner said, explaining that big fish get individual sessions.

— Margie Hyslop

For your viewing pleasure

Montgomery County delegates Brian Feldman and Tom Hucker are the guests on the latest episode of the roundtable show ‘‘Political Pulse” with Charles Duffy.

Feldman, who last week was re-elected as chairman of the Montgomery County House delegation, and Hucker will discuss how state legislative leaders view Montgomery County’s decision to grant pay raises to county employees and what it might mean for state aid to Montgomery, the ‘‘millionaire’s tax,” slot machine gambling and the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway projects.

The show will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday on Montgomery County Cable Channel 16.

— Sean R. Sedam