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Ballot Stuffing

Money to Burns


Posted 8/20/2003

Mayor Martin O'Malley, with his $2 million on hand to fund his re-election campaign, is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the City Council district races. The campaign trail in the districts has been abuzz the past few weeks with speculation over which candidates will get how much from O'Malley's formidable war chest--investments that would tip the money game and, therefore, the odds of winning toward the mayor's favorites. And the mayor has compelling motivation to back his favorites. If they win, they'll be in his debt and likely to repay him with City Council votes for his future legislative agenda. Now that the season's first campaign-finance reports have been filed, some of that speculation can be put to rest. Earlier this year--before June 30, the deadline to file to run in this year's city elections--O'Malley opened his wallet to three Democratic City Council incumbents: $6,000 for his uncle-in-law Robert Curran, who's running in the new 3rd District; $6,000 for Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who's looking to take the new 4th District seat; and $500 for Paula Johnson Branch in the new 13th District. Since then, though, O'Malley has kept the lid on his cookie jar--with one puzzling exception: $1,000 for state Del. Emmett Burns (D-10th District), a Baltimore County politician and Baptist minister who's not currently running for anything.

"That was for tickets to Mr. Burns' annual fund-raiser," explains O'Malley campaign spokeswoman Kimberlin Love. "Mr. Burns has been very supportive of the mayor's agenda on regional and city issues," she points out, adding that O'Malley has also gone to each of Burns' past three midsummer fetes.

"Really! That is so bizarre," exclaims Anthony McCarthy, publisher of Gay Life newspaper and local political insider, upon hearing this tidbit. The city's gay leaders are very aware of Del. Burns--he was a vocal and steadfast opponent of long-debated legislation, which ultimately passed in 2000, that added sexual orientation to the state law that bars discrimination based on gender, religion, and race. Burns also vehemently opposed a successful bill, which was then vetoed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) this past June, that would have allowed some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland colleges.

"On most issues I believe that Mr. Burns and I agree--fundamental issues about human rights and civil rights," McCarthy says. "There is a huge delineation [between us], however," when it comes to gay and lesbian rights and access to opportunity for immigrants. "I believe everyone should be included at the table, while he would exclude some."

Apparently, O'Malley is welcome at Burns' table--especially when he brings a fat check.

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