Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Cattails, Campaigns & Cat Fights

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, May 26, 2006

I read this article this morning.

Initially my thought was.  Merdon, what the hell are you doing.  The more and more I think about it – I am just plain pissed off – and not at Chris Merdon.

Overall, it is, as Joan Becker put it, unfortunate.  I wasn't there, but the way it is portrayed in the newspaper is unflattering to everyone involved.

The party in question should have had the courtesy not to take the seats, and Chris should have been his normal easy going self and let it go.  "Excuse me these seats are taken, when will you be finished?  Thank you."  Walk away.  For all we know that may be exactly what he did.

This is the first time I heard about this and here are my impressions from the article.

According to the offended party Chris was "accusatory", "angry", "mad".  Over seats.  Over seats.  Not the Chris Merdon I know.

So one of the parties involved (a republican) is on the GOP email list and gets an email from Chris Merdon's campaign.  Then she has the bright idea to email him and call him names (high-horseness – that is what Mrs. Lanuza says in the paper) and expects what?  Roses?  Lanuza is right.  No one should act that way.  She couldn't let it go?  Maybe she was just trying to patch things up? Maybe get the last word in?  Provoke him?

Chris, being the honest person he is, calls her on it.  Most of us would – maybe not if we were running for office – but I do all the time on this blog.  Lanuza may not have realized her email was offensive(I'll give her the benefit of the doubt but tell me I am sitting on a high horse I probably would be offended.) and re-sparked all the bad feelings from the day before.  I am sure Chris had forgotten all about it by then, that is until he got a nasty gram in his inbox.

Chris replies in kind.  Maybe he wanted the last word? He should not have done it.  Realizes it.  Too late.  I am sure he is kicking himself for not following one of his own rules "If you write an email out of anger sit on it for a day before you send it!"  He didn't follow the rule, kicks himself and sends an apology.  Merdon should have let the provocation slide.

Guess what happened next.  Apology not accepted.  Not only wasn't she gracious enough to accept an apology she forwards Chris' emails to 50 people.  Then the whole thing ends up in The Baltimore Sun.  I wonder how that happened.  Did Chris Merdon call Larry Carson or something?  Maybe it does say more about Mrs. Lanuzo than it does about Chris Merdon.

I don't know Mrs. Lanuza and have no idea what she is like.  However, this article doesn't do her any favors – it is unflattering.  Her husband had the right idea – stay out of the papers.

Yes, their is a clear lesson here for everyone involved.  Petty stuff with plenty of blame to go around.  However, I am also sure that Chris expected a private matter to remain private.  When provided the opportunity to comment further on the incident he called it an unfortunate misunderstanding and then like a gentleman he declined further comment.  This has nothing to do with his public duties after all.  I have no idea what Mrs. Lanuza's expectations or motives were, but she couldn't let it go the first time and kept escallating a minor issue until it hit the papers.  When provided the opportunity to comment further on the incident she was quoted at least six times.

One thing is very very obvious.  Merdon and Lanuza behave just like human beings.  How dare they.

Then I question Larry Carson's and his editor's motives for printing such a story.  The headline first of all "GOP Voters Bristle at Merdon's Behavior".  Carson's editor has a flare for the dramatic.  I am pretty active in Republican circles.  No one I know has been talking about this.  The headline makes it seem like this is a party wide scandal.  Couldn't be further from the truth.  What are they writing at the Sun?  Scripts for E TV?  If the GOP is talking about this they are talking about the hatchet job.  I dare say more Republican's in Howard County read this blog than they read the Baltimore Sun – that is tongue in cheek.

Larry, you blow up a minor issue like this into a headline in the Howard County Section of the Sun.  Yet you took a near total pass on Livesay and the Hatch Act.  Minor squabble -v- Violation of federal law.  Your article on Livesay was a puff piece and I let it pass.  Then you come up with this stuff?  Glad to know what your priorities are. 

Steve Adler sent me an email and questioned The Sun's priorities too and asked why their isn't a write up about the Albright Foundation.  How much money did they raise at the event for their organization?  Why not discuss the Albright Foundation's vision of assisting children in the region through monetary contributions to 57 organizations that assist children? Is that too positive?

I would go on to ask, why didn't the subjects involved in this incident remind us (or themselves) that the day was about the children and not themselves.  Are they so focused on themselves that they forgot the reason they were there in the first place?

Readers if you are interested in learning more about the work of the Albright Foundation please visit their web site.  The Albright Foundation


20 Responses to “Cattails, Campaigns & Cat Fights”

  1. My golden rule about this subject is that you should never put anything in an email or on a voice mail (and in our case on a blog) that you do not want anyone else in the rest of the world to read or hear. Just assume it will be and take that into account.

    I’ve sometimes forgotten that rule myself and regretted it (one very public case being the Chip Franklin incident as I am sure hocomd remembers well), but it is a good rule to live by.

  2. Mary Beth Tung said

    Dave, this is the first I heard about this incident too, and I am certainly “in Republican circles” as well! No major GOP uprising over this incident is happening of which I am aware either!

    I agree with Dave Wissing – this posting included.

  3. I add my two cents at my site. Compare how Carson reported this story to when Ulman attacked an audience member at the forum in April.

  4. Mary Beth Tung said

    Dave W – I agree, there was definitely a little difference in reporting here. So both men are now 1:1 with a lapse in good behavior category – perhaps Mr. Carson can now report on more important matters, such as what kind of toothpaste they both use. We Know that Tony Blair and President Bush both use Colgate. I wonder who had the scoop on that story?

  5. hocomd said

    It has come to my attention that some of the people in question (not Merdon) might have been itching for a confrontation (and usually don’t back down from a confrontation). What makes the story in The Sun slanted is that I also understand that Larry Carson was given this opinion, but it doesn’t appear in the article.

    Regardless, any candidate for public office whether you are a Merdon, Ulman, Clinton or Bush, needs to exercise restraint in situations like this.

    Some people, no matter who they are, are itching for a reason to fight and good public servants need to be careful.

  6. Hayduke said

    Mary Beth, et al: I really don’t think you can compare The Ulman Eye Roll incident with this. Ulman sought clarification on a woman’s negative reaction to something that is really important to his entire family, The Ulman Cancer Fund. If the confrontation between Merdon and the Cattail folks had stayed in the club, then the two would be the same. But his written response to Lanuza’s email (which, I admit, was not the most polite message) took it a step further. He could have dropped it then, but he didn’t.

    David K: If Larry Carson had said that Lanuza (I assume that’s who you’re talking about) was itching for and doesn’t back down from a confrontation that would have been libel and/or slander and he would probably have been sued. Choosing to stay within the bounds of law makes the media slanted?

  7. Mary Beth Tung said


    A sitting councilman calling down a citizen in front of an entire room of people is a much more egregious problem than a private confrontation and an email exchange. I cannot imagine being called down in a public place by an elected official. I can’t imagine doing that to a citizen myself. I cannot answer for Chris has to how the exchange at Cattail got into the rather unfortunate email exchnage – on both sides – but he wasn’t trying to publically humiliate her. We all need to watch our electronic communications – politicians and private citizens alike.

  8. hocomd said

    Hayduke, in the context that it was relayed to me and reported to have been relayed to Larry Carson it would not have come close to libal and/or slander. Chris and the Lanusa’s were not the only ones in the room.

  9. Bubba said

    Well, Well, Well some fancy panced, high flutin Country Club Republicans got the feelings hurt….tsk tsk tsk and the Baltimore Sun gets called, lets all take a minute and cry over some spilt milk!

    David K makes an excellent point about other officials very close to breaking the law and all the Sun can cover is this stuff. Just one more reason why readership is dropping and the Examiner has moved to town…..

  10. Hayduke said

    Mary Beth: Reading all of the other blogs’ reports from the night of the Eye Roll, no one seemed overly concerned about it. Wissing called it “slightly awkward.” Hocoblog said it was “rather defensive,” but gave Ulman credit for coming to the forum, which as Wissing said was “decidedly pro-Merdon.” And Evan wasn’t there for that portion, but nonetheless felt the need to defend Ken on the grounds that he should respond to someone blowing off something your family is very committed to; in other words, he wasn’t trying to humiliate her, but to defend the work and dedication of his family.

    But as I said, the incident didn’t go beyond this. There was no nasty email exchange.

    Hocoblog: Are you saying that others in the room heard the Lanuzas say that they were “itching for a confrontation” and wouldn’t back down from one? Because if not, than the Sun won’t print it. It’s character defamation if they do; you’re infering something about her that degrades her reputation. The Sun knew that if they printed that they would be sued.

  11. Brad said

    I read the story and figured Lanuzas didn’t like Merdon from the getgo. I mean, cmon, who fwds an email to 50 people? And GOP circles? Right, must have escaped me. What a load of crap of the Baltimore Sun. I’m not sure the paper is even a “paper” as much as it is a democratic newsletter these days.

  12. Hocoblog said

    Hayduke, I thought you knew me better than that.  To answer your question.  No.  To clarify.  The story seems to make Merdon out to be the aggressor when others at the event would say otherwise and this was relayed to Larry.  The story is fully from the perspective of one person, Mrs. Lanuzo – go back and read it.  It would have balanced the story if Larry had written that witnesses to the confrontations said….  And he did talk to witnesses and The Sun didn't use the quotes, although I don't know if Larry used them in his story.  How do I know – because they talked to me.

    Admittedly I would prefer to find Ken Ulman in this position and I would not have delved into the details as far as I did if it was Ken.  However, I still would have felt the same way if it was Ken.  It is a one sided story, beneath Larry Carson, their are many more important issues that need to be addressed.

    Hayduke, The Sun devoted 700 words to this article.  How many did they devote to the Hatch Act?  109!!!  Which story is more important in your mind?  Can you think of any other topic you would like to see the Baltimore Sun devote its time and resources?

  13. Mary Beth Tung said

    Heyduke, when you are in politics, you take the lumps. I’ve had things said about my family, you just ignore it and move on. If Mr. Ulman felt the need to call someone down, he could have talked to her in private. I wasn’t at the event either, but folks that were said that it was very awkward, with the citizen at the middle of it. I’m not defending Mr. Merdon’s email, but I still think it is indefensible for Mr. Ulman to call down someone in the audience, for what? An eye roll that wasn’t? I would hope that Mr. Ulman and Mr. Merdon quickly find their usual gentlemanly manners once again.

  14. Hayduke said

    Hocoblog: You are right that The Sun should have spent more time on the Hatch Act. But arcane federal laws don’t generate the readership that gossipy, confrontations do.

    Mary Beth: I hope that both of these experiences have helped thicken the skins of our candidates. I’m wondering if these reactions might be related to the youthfulness of the candidates.

  15. just a voter said

    Ulman / Merdon… There the same..

    I’ve had enough of career politicans. I’m voting for Steve Wallis for Howard County Executive.

  16. Mary Beth Tung said

    Hayduke – we’re all subject to mistakes, regardless of age. I hope we can all come away not so much with thicker skins, but wiser. Our society is far too adversarial, perhaps we can all be a kinder, gentler county.

    Just a voter: Keep looking at all those candidates – the more people involved, the better….

  17. hocomd said

    From the other Howard County Blog.

  18. a curious observer said

    “just a voter” may I correct you in your comment about Ulman / Merdon? There just the same? No THEY’RE not.

    Your opinion on career politicians aside – do you really want to vote for Steve Wallis, a man who didn’t know that the zoning board and the county council are one in the same? Just because you have an independent label next to your name on a ballot does not qualify you for the independent vote.

  19. Mary Smith said

    While not a Merdon supporter, I find the behavior of those who took someone else’s seat unequivocally rude.

    It’s not even open for discussion. Merdon does not have any more rights than consituents, but he still has the right to expect common courtesy. He may behave in a superior manner, but that cannot be determined from this incident.

  20. Anonymous said

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