Friday, Oct. 12, 2007

Reporters Notebook: Remember the turtle, and we ain’t talking sports

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In these days of guerilla reporters sent by rival campaigns and hecklers crashing campaign stops to wreak havoc on political opponents, you had to wonder if the kid at last week’s family farm event on the second floor of the State House could’ve somehow been a plant.

As Martin O’Malley introduced himself to the Rogers family, one of six families recognized for more than 100 years of farming the same land, a young boy decided to help the guv out.

‘‘He’s shy,” O’Malley joked as he shook hands with one of the family’s older boys, who was sandwiched in the back among family members.

‘‘He’s shy,” a younger boy in the front repeated, before offering this tidbit: ‘‘We both love turtles.”

Warning: Digression ahead.

We couldn’t help but think of the ‘‘turtle kid.” Enter the search on YouTube and you’ll see what we mean.

The video clip, apparently from a news station in Portland, Ore., features a reporter doing a live stand-up at an outdoor festival and interviewing a boy whose face is painted like a zombie.

‘‘Jonathon just got an awesome face paint job. What do you think?” the reporter asks.

‘‘I like turtles,” the boy replies.

‘‘All right, you’re a great zombie,” the reporter says.

The kid became a bit of an Internet sensation.

Another YouTube clip features Fox News host Bill O’Reilly grilling the kid on the terms of the Geneva Convention.

The boy’s zombie-faced answer to every question: ‘‘I like turtles.”

Digression over: Back to the second floor.

The guv did a bit of the double take, then did his best to dodge any potential embarrassment, asking the boy to repeat what he said.

‘‘We have two turtles,” the boy said.

‘‘What are the names of the turtles?” O’Malley asked.

After some further questioning, he got the answer: Sheckle and Michelangelo (we’re assuming a homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and not the Renaissance man).

As O’Malley tries to win votes for his budget plan, maybe he should keep in mind one key consensus builder: We all like turtles.

— Sean R. Sedam

Take a whack at the deficit

We’re familiar with Senate Prez Mike Miller’s ‘‘three-legged stool” metaphor for O’Malley’s proposed budget solution. Slots is one of the legs, along with cuts and taxes — or ‘‘revenues,” as lawmakers like to call them.

But we were struck by a turn of phrase used by House Speaker Mike Busch during an interview with WYPR’s Marc Steiner on Tuesday.

Busch said talk of how many slot machines the state could bring in, where they would be and how much revenue to expect from them — all details that have yet to be divulged — was like ‘‘putting pins in the piñata, if you will.”

Piñatas filled with cash — now that sounds like fun.

— Sean R. Sedam

Catch phrase?

Tony O’Donnell has a suggestion for a new state slogan that may put him further in O’Malley’s doghouse.

‘‘If the governor wants to tell Marylanders what he’s really proposing, he ought to announce this week a change in the signage at the entrance to Maryland,” the GOP jefe said this week of the guv’s plan to fill the state’s budget deficit. ‘‘... It should say, ‘Welcome to Maryland: What’s in your wallet?’”

—Alan Brody

Still got the juice!

Gone are the days when the Redskins owned Sunday afternoons in the D.C. metro area.

It used to be that all kinds of things — family outings, community days, campaign rallies — were scheduled around the team’s kickoff time.

On Sunday, we thought we had found more proof that the Skins had faded when the Al Wynn campaign held a picnic at Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg at the same time the Redskins took on the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field.

But when we arrived, we found several Wynn supporters clustered around a TV in a corner of a picnic pavilion watching the Skins trounce the Lions.

At one point, campaign manager Laurie Sherwood announced the arrival of some Dem muckety-muck to the crowd, adding, ‘‘And the really good news is the Redskins are up 14-3.”

‘‘17-3!” shouted someone in front of the TV.

The picnic drew more than 200 people at $30 a head for what organizers called more of a ‘‘people raiser” than a fundraiser.

The eight-term incumbent faces challenges from Donna Edwards, George McDermott and George E. Mitchell.

Wynn hosted a fundraiser at a Bowie Baysox game in September. Sunday’s picnic was part of Wynn reaching out to the MoCo portions of his bifurcated district.

The campaign is also finalizing plans for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a fundraiser for Wynn in Monty next month.

‘‘The nice thing is the Redskins are winning,” Wynn told us on Sunday. ‘‘We have something for everybody — from the Redskins to blueberry pie.”

Further proof that Washington is a great sports town — if your sport is politics.

— Sean R. Sedam

Another Miller move

That guy named Miller from Calvert County has addressed his political future.

It’s just not what you think.

Republican Ron Miller, who was throttled by Mike Miller in last year’s District 27 Senate race, sent an e-mail to supporters last week that hints at his intentions.

The long and short of it: He plans on running again — probably in 2010 — but doesn’t know for what office. GOP Miller bemoans a lack of transparency in government, unwise spending habits and too much political gamesmanship.

‘‘If I believed our elected officials genuinely served the people before themselves, I would be quite content to return to the life I had before I announced my first run for public office on February 28, 2006,” he wrote.

Ron still needs to retire about $9,000 in debt from the all-Miller showdown. Running for the same seat is one possibility, but the only thing he’s ruling out is switching races midstream as he did last year when he abandoned a run against Steny Hoyer and filed a last-minute challenge to the Senate prez at Bob Ehrlich’s request.

‘‘When the commander calls on you, you salute smartly and report for duty, and that’s what I did,” Ron wrote. ‘‘... To [many voters], the change appeared indecisive at best and opportunistic at worst. The fact is that it was neither, but I’d rather be patient and evaluate the situation fully at the right time so the decision I make is the right one — and the only one.”

— Alan Brody

Hitting the ground running

Monty’s newest delegates found homes on House committees this week: Bill Frick wins Ways and Means and Kirill Reznik goes to Health and Government Operations.

Frick and Reznik, both Dems (it’s MoCo, whadidyaexpect?), were sworn in Oct. 2.

Frick succeeds Marilyn Goldwater, who resigned in August. Goldwater was vice chairwoman of HGO. Shane Pendergrass assumed the vice chairmanship.

Reznik replaced Nancy King, who moved to the Senate. King was on Ways and Means.

‘‘Both the Ways & Means and Health and Government Operations Committees will be critical to the upcoming debate on balancing the budget and providing healthcare access to Maryland’s uninsured families,” Busch said in a statement. ‘‘Delegates Frick and Reznik will bring valuable experience and perspective to these important policy areas.”

Frick is counsel at Akin, Gump, Struass, Hauer & Feld in Washington.

Reznik is a finance and administration manager with QED Group in Washington, a small, women-owned, for-profit, international development company that monitors the U.S. Agency for International Development’s largest contract.

At Al Wynn’s do on Sunday, Reznik said he was still trying to figure out ‘‘the little stuff, like where are you going to sit and hiring an aide.”

But he was already doing what pols do — trying to get elected. He told a pair of supporters that House leadership would like him to start filling the coffers.

‘‘If you really want to help me celebrate ...” Reznik said.

— Sean R. Sedam

Arrivederci

Bawlmer’s general election is still several weeks away, but Sheila Dixon’s campaign manager isn’t waiting until her candidate seals the deal.

Martha McKenna has headed to greener pastures, joining the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as its political director, replacing Guy Cecil, who left to become Hillary Clinton’s national political director.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city by about 4-1 and many consider the contest between Dixon and Elbert Henderson a cakewalk.

McKenna, a Charm City native, spent four years as campaign services director for EMILY’s List, a national PAC that backs pro-choice Dem women.

DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer said in a statement that McKenna’s addition is exciting. ‘‘She has experience, intelligence, enthusiasm, and will be a big help in our work to increase our Democratic majority.”

— Alan Brody

Seeking spin

Got good communications skills, the ability to organize a news conference, write a press release and work with the ink-stained wretches in the Annapolis press corps? Anthony Brown wants to hear from you.

Press secretary Samantha Kappalman is leaving the lite guv’s office and her boss is looking for a replacement. The listed salary ranges from $63,000 to $76,000.

Meanwhile, Alex Hughes is back as Mike Busch’s communications chief after a short stint with Ben Cardin on Capital Hill. Coupled with the return several weeks ago of Mike Miller’s press aide Lisa Fulton, we’re beginning to wonder if there’s something in the water.

— Alan Brody

Goin’ to the chapel ... and the polls

Think running for elected office is tough?

Try doing what Gaithersburg City Council candidate Ryan Spiegel is doing.

He’s getting married Sunday in Hunt Valley, spending a week in Italy and returning 10 days before voters decide his fate at the polls on Nov. 6.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, one of the hotels where wedding guests are staying had its roof partially collapse on Wednesday. (Disaster was averted as guests got alternate lodging.)

‘‘There was definitely a moment of major panic,” said the 29-year-old Spiegel, who ran unsuccessfully for a District 17 House seat last year.

So how is Spiegel, a litigator at Winston & Strawn in Washington, juggling his role as a groom and a candidate?

Simple: The wedding comes first. ‘‘If it ultimately means losing the election, so be it,” he said.

When supporters floated running for one of three vacant council seats, his reaction was predictable: ‘‘You want me to do what?” he recalled saying. ‘‘I had already gotten comfortable with the idea that I was going to be spending a few years with my wife-to-be before getting back into the political fray.”

But Spiegel has said the election won’t interfere with his nuptials. He’s leaving his Blackberry at home and leaving his campaign in the hands of volunteers while he’s overseas (Cheryl Kagan will serve as a surrogate for him at a televised debate next week).

There’s actually a political upside to the situation that might win him some sympathy votes, Spiegel said. ‘‘There is no better excuse for having to miss a political event if you’re a candidate than saying you’re going to be on your honeymoon.”

Sunday is the annual Oktoberfest celebration in the Kentlands neighborhood that is a must-attend for candidates, but Spiegel is skipping to get hitched. We asked if double-dipping ever entered his mind? ‘‘I’m pretty crazy, but I’m not that crazy.”

— Alan Brody

So trendy

A Rockville City Council candidate has taken his message to YouTube.

The video shows environmental advocate Carl Henn in front of his house and around Rockville as he pitches his message.

The production is the work of a media specialist, whom the candidate won over while knocking on doors, Henn said.

Visitors regularly number in the hundreds of thousands on some YouTube offerings. For Henn, the hits numbered just over 100 as of last week.

Aside from the Web, the candidate can be seen tooling around town on his bicycle, toting a campaign sign.

— Warren Parish

Speaking of trendy ...

Monty has another tool in its arsenal to help track youth programs.

Beginning soon, California-based ESRI, a global information technology company, will work with the county to catalog and track all of its gang and youth violence prevention programs.

The company approached the National Association of Counties looking for partners to begin the programs. Thanks to Marilyn Praisner, MoCo’s council prez, who has long worked with NACo, MoCo was tapped first for the partnership.

‘‘I’ve been saying for a long time that GIS [geographic information systems] is not just a way of generating maps, but helping decision-making,” she said. ‘‘The sophistication in this area has grown as folks have seen the power of GIS for the speed in which things can be developed and presented.”

— Janel Davis

Back in the race

Deborah Vollmer says she’s running against Chris Van Hollen, one way or another, because he has not done enough to try to end war in Iraq.

This will be the Chevy Chase lawyer’s sixth foray into the race to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.

Vollmer isn’t sure if she’ll run as a Dem, an indie or a Green, but she is sure she will run, if only out of frustration with the Democratic leadership’s and Van Hollen’s votes to continue funding for the war.

She has begun distributing fliers challenging Van Hollen’s record on the war.

— Margie Hyslop

Not only in America

Betcha thought the incessant ringing of cell phones in public places was only happening in technology-addicted America.

Not so. Seems cell phone noise is an issue everywhere, including Israel.

During a video conference from the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh this week, a portion of MoCo Exec Ike Leggett’s comments were overshadowed by a ringing phone. Not to let a little thing like a jazzy sounds of spring-esque interlude interrupt the monumental moment, the discussion continued, complete with Hebrew translation.

The video link on Leggett’s end wasn’t working, so no idea on the culprit. We’d like to think the guilty party was appropriately chagrined.

— Janel Davis

Warm engine, cold comfort

Anyone who has driven through Monty on weekday mornings and afternoons knows traffic is no laughing matter.

But a County Council committee meeting on Monday brought consternation and comedy to the topic of congestion.

The sighs and chuckles came as the panel considered requiring developers to show that enough road and transit capacity remains when their projects are not built 10 years after approval.

About 26,000 housing units and 16 million square feet of commercial space have been approved but not built.

‘‘It’s criminal” that those units could be built at any time, said Councilwoman Nancy Floreen.

‘‘Just think what congestion would be like if they were all built now,” Marilyn Praisner added.

‘‘Paper traffic is always better than real traffic,” staffer Glenn Orlin said.

We couldn’t have said it better.

— Margie Hyslop