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Munson attracting some Democratic support

September 02, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Are Democrats trying to help state Sen. Donald F. Munson win a Republican primary?

Yes and no.

Munson, facing a challenge from Del. Christopher B. Shank, has taken in campaign money from at least a handful of Democrats.

But there are no outward signs of assistance from top Democrats in power in Annapolis, a theory Shank has floated as he paints Munson as a liberal.

Shank wrote in an e-mail to supporters: "We already know Don Munson has the support of the Democratic Leadership including Mike Miller and his top lieutenants."

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Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., the Senate president, said he likes Munson as "a compassionate conservative" who respects the institution of the Senate and as a hard worker who votes for the interests of his constituents.

But Miller said he isn't involved in the primary.

"My support for Sen. Munson would be a liability in his race," Miller said.

Shank also has pointed to a letter from Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Democrat who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee, on which Munson sits.

The letter, posted on Munson's campaign website, praises Munson for his work over the years. It concludes: "If I can help ... in your campaign, please don't hesitate to call me."

Currie was indicted Wednesday on charges that include conspiracy, bribery, extortion, mail fraud and making false statements in connection with his work as a consultant for Shoppers Food Warehouse, according to The Associated Press.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Gov. Martin O'Malley, both Democrats, aren't taking a position in the Munson-Shank primary, according to their spokespeople.

"We're certainly not supporting any Republicans in any race," Maryland Democratic Party spokeswoman Maureen Higgins said.

During two stops in Hagerstown in recent months, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, a Democrat, spoke well of Munson, but said the primary is "a Republican issue."

Asked about Shank's theory, Munson said top Democrats aren't part of his campaign, but added, "They'd have reason to oppose Chris."

One local Democrat -- Del. John P. Donoghue -- is unabashedly loyal to Munson, right down to the Munson bumper sticker on his Volkswagen Beetle.

Donoghue said he sees no evidence of state Democratic election support for Munson.

"I think they recognize it's a Republican primary and they're waiting to see the results, just like anybody else," he said.

Shank said Patrick Murray, who works in Miller's Senate office, met with Munson and has assisted Munson's campaign.

But Munson said Murray hasn't been involved in his campaign.

Murray is out of his office until mid-September. Someone in Miller's office twice has offered to pass phone messages to Murray, but he didn't respond.

Shank said he knows of a poll asking questions about the race, but it didn't show up on Munson's latest campaign finance report. Shank wondered if Miller or other Democrats were behind it.

Munson said he hasn't conducted polling and doesn't know of anyone who did on his behalf.

The list of contributors and fundraising ticket purchasers in Munson's latest campaign finance statement, filed last month, includes many Republicans, but also a sprinkling of current and former Democratic officeholders, such as:

o Donoghue

o John L. Schnebly, a former Washington County commissioner and Hagerstown city councilman

o Laurence Levitan, a former state senator and delegate

o Charles F. Mades, the past Washington County sheriff

o D. Bruce Poole, a former state delegate whom Shank unseated in 1998

o Hagerstown City Councilman William M. Breichner

o Dennis J. Weaver, Washington County's clerk of the Circuit Court

o Frank J. Komenda, a former state senator and delegate

o Barbara A. Hoffman, a former state senator and Budget and Taxation Committee chairwoman.

Thomas G. Slater, who has been active in Western Maryland Democratic politics, is on the list, too.

A business entity belonging to Del. Galen R. Clagett, D-Frederick, gave $375.

Clagett said he and Munson worked together in Frederick County's school system decades ago.

Clagett also hasn't forgotten a mailing criticizing him in the 2006 election, when Shank helped Republican candidates in other delegate races.

Shank said Tuesday that the mailing, which showed a child worried about losing her house, referred to an eminent domain bill for which Clagett voted.

"It hit Galen where it hurt," Shank said.

Clagett said Shank, the House minority whip, and Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the minority leader, are too far right and "took the Republican Party down the primrose path."

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