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Maryland Senate budget chief Kasemeyer decides not to run for re-election

Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, who chairs the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee, said Friday that he will not seek re-election after more than three decades in the General Assembly.

Kasemeyer, a Democrat who represents Howard and Baltimore counties, has led the Senate’s budget panel since 2010. The chairmanship of Budget & Taxation is regarded as second only to the Senate president in influence in that chamber.

The 72-year-old lawmaker took colleagues by surprise when he informed them of his decision on Thursday. Last July, Kasemeyer had filed for re-election along with the three Democratic delegates from his 12th District — Eric Ebersole, Terri Hills and Clarence Lam.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Kasemeyer said he had started thinking seriously about whether to carry through with a re-election campaign in the last few weeks. He said his decision not to run had nothing to do with his health.

“You just sense it’s the right time to move on,” he said. “I wanted to do it while I still felt good about my performance.”

Kasemeyer was first elected to the legislature in 1982, when he won a seat in the House of Delegates. Four years later he moved up to the Senate but lost his bid for re-election in 1990.

After four years out of office, Kasemeyer rebounded with a Senate victory in 1994. He has since won re-election to that seat five times from a reliably Democratic district the includes much of Columbia and Elkridge in Howard County and the Arbutus-Halethorpe-Lansdowne area of southwestern Baltimore County.

Since his return to the Senate, Kasemeyer has established himself as a specialist on Maryland’s budget. He became vice chairman of Budget & Taxation in 2007 and was named acting chairman by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in 2010 after the federal indictment of previous chairman Ulysses S. Currie. Currie was acquitted, but later censured for this violations, and Kasemeyer became permanent chairman the next year.

Kasemeyer has staked out a middle ground in the Democratic caucus, compiling a liberal record on social issues tempered with fiscal restraint. He is known for his quiet, restrained manner, thorough knowledge of the budget and respect for the traditions of the Senate.

Committee colleagues expressed regret at his decision.

“It’s sad because he’s been a great chairman,” said Sen. Nancy King, a Montgomery County Democrat. “He brought us all together.”

Sen. Bill Ferguson said he learned of Kasemeyer’s decision Thursday.

“It was surprising but my reaction is he made the decision on his own terms and feels very comfortable in his decision to retire,” the Baltimore Democrat said. “It is an honor and a privilege to have served under him.”

Kasemeyer also drew praise from a Republican committee member.

“He’s been a quiet, solid leader,” said Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt of Dorchester County. “He treats everybody very fairly.”

Kasemeyer said he expects at least one of his district’s delegates to run for his seat. He said he expects them to meet this weekend to discuss their plans.

Before the session ends April 9, Kasemeyer will still steer another state budget — his ninth holding the gavel — through the Senate approval process and a conference committee with the House.

“I cant believe it’s been 32 years,’ he said.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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