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Quick Thinking

Quick Thinking. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) reacted quickly when a woman claiming to have a gun reached into her purse during an awards ceremony at a North Carolina elementary school Tuesday. Etheridge grabbed the woman and held her until she was subdued by police.

[IMGCAP(1)]Etheridge was handing out certificates at the L.C. Kerr Elementary School in Clinton with about 200 students in attendance when the woman began acting erratically, referring to “visions of demons,” according to Raleigh TV station WRAL. The woman said she had a gun with her then threatened to kill Etheridge and began to reach into her purse. Etheridge pinned her, arms to her side until police took her into custody. No gun was found in the woman’s purse, although one was later recovered from her car.

“I didn’t want her bringing her hand out of that bag,” Etheridge said. “I didn’t know what she had in it.”

The woman has not been publicly identified as of press time. The Clinton police department did not return calls seeking information on the woman late Tuesday, although she was believed to be still in custody pending a psychological evaluation.

The 53-year-old Etheridge, a four-term Member with three children, downplayed his own role in the frightening incident.

“I did what anyone else would do in a similar situation,” said Etheridge in a statement released by his office Tuesday.

“As a parent and as someone who spends a lot of time in schools, I know how precious our children are. I am just happy that everyone is safe and sound and that the situation is resolved. Schools should be a safe haven for children, and I will keep working in Congress to provide needed resources to keep our schools and our children safe.”

Edwards in a Romp. It’s hardly scientific, but the re-election campaign of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) is running an online poll on who should be the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) is winning handily.

Edwards, who will be making appearances across the country during the next several weeks on behalf of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and Democratic Senate hopefuls, got the nod from slightly more than 43 percent of the more than 1,000 people who have taken part in Ruppersberger’s poll since Monday morning.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark was second with 11.2 percent, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), who has said repeatedly that she has no interest in being anything other than a U.S. Senator, is third with 10.1 percent. “Other” is fourth with 9.55 percent, followed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and “No Opinion,” which snared 6.8 percent and 6.6 percent respectively.

Other Democrats who failed to make a strong showing included Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Bob Graham (Fla.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.), Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.), former Vice President Al Gore and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Among Republican vice presidential candidates, only 22.6 percent of those polled felt current Vice President Cheney should keep his day job (Ruppersberger is a Democrat, keep in mind), while 11.7 percent supported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and 7.8 percent favored former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

So does this mean that Ruppersberger will automatically endorse the winner of his poll for the Democratic vice presidential spot?

“No, it does not,” said Jim Metzler, who works for Ruppersberger’s campaign. Metzler said the poll was designed to “get people engaged, to open up a dialogue” on the issues facing the country this fall.

The poll could run through the end of the month, added Metzler.

Are We Gonna Need Some Peacekeepers Here? Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — better known as PFLAG — just kicked off its second annual “Legislative Visits” program, making 30 Congressional visits last week alone to lobby against the “Anti-gay Constitutional Amendment” on marriage and other gay rights issues.

But the rival group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays has also (coincidentally) designated this Thursday and Friday as “Ex-Gay Lobby Day,” a time when hordes of activists will descend on Capitol Hill to teach lawmakers about the plight of “ex-homosexuals.”

“We will introduce Congressional leaders to the ex-gay community and to the families of gays who support the rights of ex-gays,” a PFOX flyer advertising the event states. “The time has come to lobby for tolerance for ex-gays and their supporters. There’s a desperate need for education within Congress on ex-gay issues.”

But aren’t former gays, simply stated, straight?

No, according to PFOX President Regina Griggs, a Northern Virginia mother of a gay son — “not ex-gay” — who lives in the Washington area.

Griggs, who contends that sexual orientation is a personal decision, is concerned about the bullying and discrimination that she believes former gay people experience at the hands of the “homosexual activist organizations.”

“If you’re going to pass legislation that protects the rights of homosexuality and bisexuality, then you ought to protect former homosexuals,” argued Griggs, who added that she received a mixed reception on Capitol Hill last year when her group held its first lobby day.

Ron Schlittler, acting executive director for PFLAG, accused Griggs and her group of “perpetuating a world view that is deeply flawed” and “damages” people.

“Their whole take is that being gay is some sort of a misguided choice formed by bad parenting and childhood trauma and people can change,” Schlittler complained. “I think that’s a lot of bunk.”

PFLAG apparently isn’t the only group unhappy with PFOX’s activities.

While openly gay Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-Mass.) office reportedly rolled out the welcome carpet for Griggs’ group last year, Griggs said that Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s (D-Md.) office was less hospitable and refused her group an appointment.

“They asked what kind of group we were,” Griggs said. “When I told them ‘Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays,’ they asked, ‘What kind of hate group is that?’ I faxed them our tolerance page and they would not return any of our calls.”

When asked whether the group’s activists will try to meet with the other two only openly gay Members of Congress — Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) — Griggs promised they would.

“We certainly will try. And they shouldn’t be afraid of us. I think much of that goes back to not understand who ex-gays are,” said Griggs.

HOH just hopes everyone wears nametags.

Tanner’s Return. Great. Those of us with long memories may recall the HBO show “Tanner ’88.” It was about a fictional Democratic presidential candidate named Jack Tanner (actor Michael Murphy), a Democratic lawmaker from Michigan who vied for, but ultimately failed to win, his party’s presidential nomination in 1988.

The show was “groundbreaking” back then because it portrayed real-life candidates like then-Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.), former Arizona Gov. and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and the Rev. Pat Robertson mixing it up with the fictional Tanner.

Now thanks to cartoonist Garry Trudeau of “Doonesbury” fame and filmmaker Robert Altman, who teamed up for the first miniseries, Tanner is back. But this time it’s all about his daughter Alex, played by now grown-up actress Cynthia Nixon (she was in “Tanner ’88”), and her efforts to raise money for a documentary film on what it takes to run for president. The three-episode series begins production in June and wraps up with the Democratic National Convention in Boston in late July. The show airs starting in October.

“As Democrats and Republicans fight to the wire in their bid for the presidency, this series is more relevant than ever,” said Larry Aidem, president and CEO of the Sundance Channel, which is partnering with Altman and Trudeau on the series.

Wait — it’s a show about a fictional documentary filmmaker raising money for a film on a real-life presidential candidate? What’s next? A show about a fictional candidate who is the subject of a fictional film by a fictional documentary filmmaker? HOH’s head hurts.

Amy Keller contributed to this report.

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