Politics 2004Week of April 5

GILCHREST WANTS MORE TAXES, IRKS RADIO LEGENDS Less than a month ago, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R.-Md.), who had secured an endorsement and a photo for campaign brochures, from Maryland Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich, survived a conservative primary challenge. Now, the increasingly unpredictable congressman from the Eastern Shore — who has upset conservative GOPers with everything from his pro-abortion stand to his support for John McCain for President four years ago — has turned on benefactor Ehrlich. In a statement to reporters and then in testimony before the state legislature last week, Gilchrest denounced the measure the governor has fought long and hard over with the Democrat-controlled state assembly: his proposal to permit up to 15,500 slot machines throughout the Free State to raise an estimated $800 million in state revenue, much of which would be spent on education. But Gilchrest was not content just to break with the governor on this issue. He went a step further by saying that Marylanders would be willing to consider additional taxes to secure the revenue the Ehrlich-desired slots would have brought in. In Gilchrest’s words: “The residents of Maryland are willing to make an extra contribution without having gambling as our legacy.” Not only did Gilchrest further tweak conservatives in his district and give a kick to his benefactor-governor. (“We have thoughts that we don’t care to share publicly,” Ehrlich top aide Paul Schurik told the Baltimore Sun when queried about Gilchrest.) In taking this stand, Gilchrest did something area pundits and pols consider downright dumb: He made Brian and O’Brien mad. As just about any Baltimorean will attest, Brian Wilson and Big Don O’Brien are, after 20 years, as much institutions in the city as its world-famous harbor and the Orioles. The uncontested kings of local radio have been fixtures of the airwaves for more than two decades. On their top-rated program on WQSR every day for four hours, they almost always eschew politics in favor of side-splitting lyrical parodies (“The Gigolo Sing-along” for example), golden oldies, and fun-facts such as birthdays of the famous and infamous. Not so on March 22. (“William Shatner’s 73rd birthday,” as B&B put it.) In an unusually strong afternoon broadside, Brian and O’Brien took after Gilchrest with a vengeance: “He said residents of Maryland are willing to pay higher taxes,” exclaimed Big Don, “Now I may have met some — a few, anyway — who don’t want slots. I have never met anyone who is willing to pay higher taxes.” The boys spanked Gilchrest for breaking with Ehrlich so soon after getting political help from him and warned that “more taxes lead to more government and the welfare state” — unusual words coming from the masters of mirth. B&B then opened up the phone lines to a floodgate of calls denouncing Gilchrest, with one caller saying he has “slots in his head.” SHORT TAKES The Tradition Continues: Since onetime federal prosecutor Jeff Sessions became Alabama’s first Republican attorney general since Reconstruction in 1994, the state has maintained a tradition of young “men of the law” rather than seasoned-office-holders as its chief law enforcement officer. When Sessions went on to the U.S. Senate in 1996, he was succeeded as attorney general by his deputy — Bill Pryor, formerly law clerk to a federal judge, who became the youngest (34) attorney general in the nation at the time. When Pryor became a U.S. Court of Appeals judge last month, Republican Gov. Bob Riley named his legal counsel Troy King as Alabama’s third GOP attorney general. Although Riley’s call for higher taxes last year has made him widely distrusted on the right, this has not affected King’s high marks among conservatives. A graduate of Troy State University and the University of Alabama Law School, the 35-year-old King also served as an assistant attorney general under Pryor and was No. 2 man on the staff of former Republican Gov. (1994-98) Fob James. “Rowland’s Rove” Heads West: As Connecticut’s Republican Gov. John Rowland continues to be investigated by the state legislature for possible impeachment over whether he accepted illegal gratuities, the governor’s closest and most durable political associate left the Nutmeg State for Nebraska. Dave Boomer helped the young Rowland win his first race for Congress in 1984 and was his press secretary during his House tenure (1984-90). Like Lyn Nofziger with Ronald Reagan, Boomer was in and out of major staff spots with Rowland in his gubernatorial campaigns and his record ten years in the statehouse. Most recently, he was working at state Republican headquarters in Hartford to help develop defensive strategy for the embattled Rowland. Now, the political gunslinger known as Rowland’s Rove has just moved to Omaha to manage the fourth term campaign of conservative Republican Rep. Lee Terry. “Mr. Chairman” Means Something Different Here From Poland: Many HUMAN EVENTS readers still remember being introduced in 1986 to one of the most unusual U.S. House hopefuls anywhere that year in our “Races of the Week” feature (June 7, 1986): Stanley T. Grot, born in Kmicizyn, Poland (near the Russian border), whose family fled their homeland to escape communism, and who was the Republican nominee against then-Democratic Rep. (1980-92) Dennis Hertel in Michigan’s 14th District (Hamtramck, Sterling Heights, Northeast Detroit). Although he was unsuccessful in his race, Grot’s heart-warming story — learning to speak English, weeping as he became an American citizen, and after stints as a dishwasher and assembly line worker for Chevrolet, launching the thriving Polonia Restaurant in Sterling Heights — moved many readers. And just as he never grew discouraged when he was laid off by Chevrolet, Stan Grot never gave up after losing his maiden political race. An active GOP campaigner in ethnic neighborhoods, he went on to serve for eight years as Michigan’s deputy secretary of state under then-Secretary and now Rep. Candice Miller (R.-Mich.). Now, at 52, Grot has just assumed the title of Republican chairman of all-important Macomb County, home of so-called “Reagan Democrats,” a county that is almost always studied by the national media and is pivotal to whether Republican presidential candidates will carry the Water Wonderland. They Now Call Holtzman “Mr. President”: Another unsuccessful-but-memorable Republican House hopeful from 1986 re-emerged in the news lately, and in a very different capacity. In ’86, 25-year-old Marc Holtzman was the “wonder kid” of the Reagan Revolution. As a non-political teenager a decade before, he had watched Ronald Reagan’s national television address after winning the North Carolina primary and was moved enough to write his first-ever campaign check ($25 from working in a camera shop) to the Californian. Four years later, after getting to spend time with his candidate-hero, Holtzman became executive director of the Reagan campaign in his native Pennsylvania, then was top aide to the lieutenant governor, and then ran the Citizens for America grass-roots effort to support the Reagan agenda. As the GOP nominee for Congress in the Keystone State’s heavily Democratic 11th District (Wilkes-Barre), the young man lost to incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski. So whatever became of Holtzman? After a thriving career in overseas business and marketing, he moved to Colorado and eventually became secretary of technology in the cabinet of conservative Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Although many expected him to launch a political career in the Centennial State, Holtzman’s latest re-invention took a different turn: At age 43, he was recently named president of the University of Denver. Interestingly, Holtzman will surely have many lively discussions about politics since his new office in the university’s Mary Reed Building is two doors down from that of Colorado’s former Democratic Gov. (1974-86) Dick Lamm, who unsuccessfully challenged Ross Perot for the presidential nomination of the Reform Party in 1996.


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