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Well-Heeled Republicans Kick Up Their Heels, Raise $400,000 for State GOP

By Kathleen Cullinan
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2005

WASHINGTON - It's a good week to be a Republican in Maryland.

President Bush is being sworn in to his second term today, one day after his re-election campaign manager, Baltimore County native Ken Mehlman, was officially named chairman of the Republican National Committee.

And the state party raised $400,000 at a glittery gala Tuesday in Washington -- marred only briefly by an unrelated police standoff a few blocks away and Gov. Robert Ehrlich's continuing standoff with The (Baltimore) Sun at the party.

"Tonight's a fun night," Ehrlich said, as 1,000 party-goers clad in sparkling gowns and crisp black tuxedos mingled in the ornate halls of the 80-year-old U.S. Chamber of Commerce building.

The governor, sporting a Maryland-flag patterned bowtie, called the fund-raising party "just a short break from the reality of our jobs."

There was no break, however, from Ehrlich's feud with The Sun. After briskly walking past three reporters on his way in -- two from Capital News Service and one from The Sun -- Ehrlich invited the two CNS reporters back for a private interview. Sun reporter David Nitkin was not invited.

The governor in November said he would no longer speak to Nitkin or Sun columnist Michael Olesker, and issued a memo ordering workers in his administration to do likewise.

"I'm disappointed that the governor continues to refuse to speak with me," Nitkin said Wednesday. "I'm going to continue to try to do my job."

Nitkin was eventually invited back for a brief interview with Doro Bush Koch, the president's sister, in whose honor the gala was thrown.

Her father, former President George H.W. Bush, was invited Tuesday but did not show up. But that did not appear to put a damper on the spirits of the party -- or its fund-raising.

Invitations to the event touted tickets for $300 and VIP tickets for $1,250. State party Chairman John Kane said all but 30 of the tickets had been sold by Tuesday morning.

"We're very happy with the results," Kane said.

Party officials said they raised about $400,000 at the event, their second-biggest yearly event, and the money will go toward the party's operating costs, such as rent and salaries.

A state Democratic Party official said the results only pointed to the fact that Maryland Republicans are "enjoying the fact they have a fund-raiser-in-chief who really should be governing the state" instead of focusing his efforts on party finances.

"The governor's going to have a rude awakening in two years," said Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party.

But GOP party-goers proved their mettle Tuesday, walking through swirling winds to reach the event after a police stand-off outside between a disgruntled van driver and police prompted street closures and snarled traffic throughout the downtown area.

Besides honoring the first baby sister, state Republicans were also celebrating Mehlman's selection to run the national party. Mehlman made an appearance for about an hour, but left the party at 8:30 p.m.


Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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