Exit the Maryland Senate

THE BALTIMORE SUN

TAKE a good look at the makeup of the Maryland Senate. Many of the faces you see won't be around very much longer.

By dint of retirement and reapportionment, the Senate could lose at least one-third of its 47 members. Still others will depart in the normal evolutionary process of running for higher office.

As the numbers crunch now, at least 16 senators have announced their retirements or have left their futures in the Senate uncertain. And every departing senator is likely to generate a corresponding vacancy in the House of Delegates as delegates attempt to move up to the Senate.

As the 1994 elections approach, there'll be more arrivals and departures in the State House than there are at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Begin with the amiable geezer, Sen. Frederick R. Malkus Jr., D-Eastern Shore, who's been a member of the Senate since 1951 and before that a member of the House of Delegates. Senator Malkus, the longest-running act in Annapolis after Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, announced during the recent session that he's fed up with the legislative grind. He's retiring to his duchy in Dorchester County to write a book.

Next come two Anne Arundel senators, Democrat Gerald W. Winegrad and Republican John A. Cade. Mr. Winegrad, the Senate's resident environmentalist, is making a career change to Washington, where he plans to pursue the greening of America. And Mr. Cade, a fiscal expert who's suffering a bad case of Annapolis burnout after 20 years, seems to be running for everything except the Senate. He's listed himself in a GOP straw poll as a potential candidate for governor, comptroller and the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County, is quietly passing the word that he may not be returning to the State House after next year. Mr. Stone's been in the General Assembly for 30 years.

Sen. Laurence Levitan, a Montgomery County Democrat and the all-powerful chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, is also indicating that he's ready to accept a gold watch. Mr. Levitan, who's been in Annapolis for more than 20 years as both delegate and senator, has barely squeaked by his last couple of elections. And this time around, reapportionment left him even more vulnerable.

Another prospective departure from Montgomery County is Sen. Mary H. Boergers, who's announced that she may run for governor. Senator Boergers is serving her first term in the Senate after three terms in the House.

There's also a question of whether Sen. Patricia R. Sher, a Montgomery County Democrat, will be returning to the State House. Before Ms. Sher was elected to the Senate in 1990, she had served in the House since 1979. She's in trouble in her home base because of her strident defense of former delegate John Arnick during his confirmation hearings for a District Court judgeship.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Frederick, says he's calling it quits after nearly 40 years in the State House. Mr. Smelser was first elected to the House in 1955 and has been a senator since 1967.

At the finish of every session, that crusty conservative from Cecil County, Sen. Walter M. Baker, announces that he's growing weary of the legislative roller coaster. This time he says he means it. As chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Mr. Baker's a one-man legislative wrecking crew.

In Prince George's County, Sen. Arthur Dorman, also feeling like a hamster in a wheel, is serious about picking up his pension check after 30 years in the legislature, first as a delegate and now as a senator.

The wicked whim of reapportionment has shoved Sen. Julian Lapides into a Baltimore center-city majority black district that is currently host to Sen. Larry Young. One of the two Democrats will not be returning to Annapolis, more than likely Mr. Lapides. Mr. Lapides has been a State House fixture since 1963. Mr. Young was first appointed to the Senate to succeed Clarence Mitchell, who resigned to go to prison.

Ditto Sen. Paula Hollinger and Sen. Janice Piccinini. The squiggles on the map were arranged in a way that squeezed the two senators into a single northwest Baltimore County district. Only one will return to Annapolis. Ms. Hollinger's been in the Senate since 1987, and before that was a member of the House from 1979. Ms. Piccinini's been around since 1991. She defeated former Sen. Francis X. Kelly in a one-note campaign on the abortion issue.

Baltimore Sen. Clarence W. Blount's getting up in years. And there's serious speculation about whether he'll attempt a reprise in the Senate. Mr. Blount's been there since 1971, the majority leader since 1983.

In Baltimore County, Sens. Nancy Murphy and Thomas L. Bromwell, both Democrats, are allowing themselves to be considered as candidates for county executive. Whether both or either will run is not likely to be settled until the dominoes topple in Baltimore County for governor, Congress and county executive.

Such wholesale turnovers are both good and bad for the political process, with the bad slightly outweighing the good. On the upside is the fact that the occasional sanitizing of the State House is proof, once again, that the system can cleanse itself without the artificial intrusion of term limitations as another barrier between the people and the process.

However, such a major loss of seniority is a heavy blow to subdivisions such as Baltimore City, which would lose key positions in the leadership ranks. The city is already losing State House voting strength to the suburbs around Washington as well as popular vote-pulling power to the metropolitan suburbs that form a noose that's whiter than Wonder Bread.

Moreover, a new and possibly inexperienced governor and a Senate of novice legislators would further strengthen the iron grip of the Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. Organizing the Senate to his advantage would give him even more power than he already has to influence the agenda in Annapolis as well as the terms on which the new governor has to deal.

That's a lot of Jacks and Jills who won't be in the Senate chambers much longer. And these are the voluntary departures; others, of course, could be ushered out by the voters in 1994.

Frank A. DeFilippo writes every other Thursday on Maryland politics.

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