As a small group of state lawmakers struggled to come up with a budget agreement before the 2012 General Assembly session ended Monday, April 9, state Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, as usual, was in the room, leading the Senate contingent.
It was Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, who presented the compromise that last week breathed life into the negotiations. This week, it was Kasemeyer, the Senate's lead negotiator, who helped reach a compromise among the conference committee members.
And while that compromise dissolved in a cloud of finger-pointing and acrimony late Monday when lawmakers ended their regular session without approving a state budget, no one was faulting Kasemeyer.
"Absolutely not," said Del. Guy Guzzone, also a Columbia Democrat, who served as a non-voting member on the conference committees that struggled to come up with a budget agreement. "You have to realize, the conferees had all come to an agreement, and (Kasemeyer) was head of the Senate conferees."
In an interview before Monday's events, Guzzone said: "So many people can get wrapped up in their own personal hang-ups and issues and let that get in the way of accomplishing the bigger goal. He's not one of them. He understands what the bigger goal is. He understands the big picture of the budget."
Ed Kasemeyer is not like most political leaders in Annapolis. He is low-key, subdued and agreeable, and he doesn't get the headlines other power brokers in the General Assembly get.
"I'm a fairly quiet person," Kasemeyer said. "I don't need to say a lot. I've just never been a very high-profile individual. That's fine with me."
But anyone who knows Annapolis knows Kasemeyer.
"He's one of the most powerful senators" in the state, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said, "arguably the second most powerful" after Senate President Mike Miller, the southern Maryland Democrat and a close Kasemeyer ally.
Kasemeyer's power, other elected officials say, comes from his position near the top of the Democratic leadership in the state Senate and from the respect he earns with his knowledge and his low-key persuasiveness.
"He has been a gentleman in his willingness to listen and to strike agreements and work together," Guzzone said. "He's just open to hear other people's sides and to act on them as he sees appropriately, but all in a good sense of cooperation."
County Council member Calvin Ball described Kasemeyer is "a thoughtful, pragmatic official" and "one of the most adept politicians at balancing competing interests."
The Columbia Democrat added: "He is a low-key man of substance; when it comes to Ed Kasemeyer, still waters run deep."
'A great underdog'
Kasemeyer, 66, has served 25 years in the state legislature.
He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1982 to represent District 14B.
"I was a great underdog," Kasemeyer said. "No one thought I would win."
After his first four-year term, Kasemeyer was elected in 1986 as the state senator for District 14, which at the time encompassed parts of Howard and Montgomery counties.
In 1990, Kasemeyer narrowly lost his re-election bid to Republican Christopher McCabe. After redistricting put Kasemeyer in District 12, he ran again in 1994 and was elected to the Senate seat that he has held ever since.
When Kasemeyer returned to the Senate in 1995, he was assigned to the Budget and Taxation Committee. Over his 17 years serving on the committee, he's chaired several subcommittees, including a decade as chairman of the Pensions Subcommittee.