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Democrats' dinner

Speaker Michael Busch, party faithful meet for Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

Speaker Michael Busch, party faithful meet for Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

May 14, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

The Rev. Ronald Kurtz set the tone for the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on Thursday even before the invocation when he told Washington County Democrats it was time to "brush Bush off and keep Kerry. Let us pray."

The Democratic Central Committee, the dinner's sponsors, attempted to rally the troops by recruiting one of the state's leading Democrats to address the dinner. Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, who represents Anne Arundel County, told the group that not being on top for the moment might not be such a bad thing.

"It's a tough time to be a Democrat, but it's the best time because you re-evaluate why you're a Democrat," he said.

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Busch said Democrats traditionally have been regarded as representing average citizens, a philosophy he adopted early in life.

"I believed it was my responsibility as an individual to make sure everyone had opportunities," he said. "I see a deterioration of those values in the Republican Party."

His fear, he said, was that Republican leadership on the national and state levels would divide society into privileged and working classes.

Busch got in a dig at Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the first Republican to hold the governor's office in Maryland since Spiro Agnew, when he quipped, "There's a reason we only have a Republican once every 36 years."

Decades of Democratic control made Maryland a leader in fiscal responsibility, education and medical delivery, Busch said. Now, he said, "The governor is more interested in dividing the system into two tiers" - particularly in the area of education.

Busch said Ehrlich's directives "would divert money to private and charter schools at the expense of your public schools."

He also criticized Ehrlich for cutting funding to the University of Maryland, noting calls by one member of the university's Board of Regents to double tuition fees to reduce the amount of state money needed.

Such action would give "only a privileged few the ability to go," he said.

Busch also criticized the governor for doubling vehicle registration fees.

"I have to laugh when I see all these SUVs with Ehrlich bumper stickers," he said. "Those are the most expensive bumper stickers in the country."

Busch vowed that after four years of the Ehrlich administration, "We will have a memory of why we need the Democrats back."

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