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Steele meets with city's political slate

March 15, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's trip to Washington County began Monday night with a meeting of Republican candidates running for local political office in Hagerstown.

The informal meeting at Schmankerl Stube, a German restaurant on South Potomac Street, lasted about 90 minutes. Steele spent the first half-hour in a private discussion with the candidates and business leaders.

Steele, who is touring local school districts throughout the state as part of an education initiative, spent Monday at a Frederick County, Md., school and is scheduled to be at Washington County Technical High School today.

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Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in September 2004 created the Governor's Commission on Quality Education in Maryland, of which Steele is the chairman. Steele is visiting schools to gather information to report to the commission, said his press secretary, Regan Hopper.

Steele, a Republican, is being considered by political leaders as a possible candidate to run for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md. Sarbanes announced Friday he would retire at the end of his term in 2007.

Steele on Monday had not announced a decision on whether to run for the seat, Hopper said.

In attendance at Monday's meeting were candidates Ruth Anne Callaham, the Rev. Haru Carter Jr., Scott D. Hesse, Dan G. Kennedy, Torrence M. VanReenen and Richard F. Trump.

Trump is the Republican candidate for mayor in the May 17 City of Hagerstown general election. The other five are the Republican candidates for City Council. The six are running as a slate.

They will face six Democrats in the May contest: incumbent Mayor William M. Breichner; incumbent council members Kristin B. Aleshire, Lewis C. Metzner and Penny M. Nigh; and political newcomers Kelly S. Cromer and Alesia D. Parson.

Also attending the meeting Monday evening were James Pierne, Edward Lough and the restaurant's owner, Charles Sekula, all of whom are involved in the local business community. Pierne and Lough are listed as cash contributors to the slate's campaign, according to campaign finance documents.

Steele said he often meets with local officials and candidates for local office, whom he said can play important roles in statewide concerns such as homeland security, education and economic development.

Steele drew comparisons between the campaign he and Ehrlich ran in 2002 and the slate's current campaign, saying he believed slate members had fresh ideas, including running as a slate. He said that while slates are common in larger races, he had not heard of anyone before running as a slate in a city election.

When told there has been criticism of the idea of city candidates running as a slate, Steele said, "What's to be afraid of? ... Change can be a good thing."

Steele said he and the candidates did not speak specifically about financial help or any appearances he would make on their behalf.

"I hope to be able to help them once they're elected," Steele said.

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