Politicians are much like the rest of us when it comes t climbing the career ladder. They're always keeping an eye out for the next vacant rung.

Now that veteran state senators John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, and Gerald Winegrad, D-Annapolis, have announced they probably won't seek re-election, Anne Arundel residents can sit back and enjoy the sometimes fascinating spectacle of lawmakers jockeying for new positions. With the 1994 elections still 1 1/2 years away, it's far too early to identify all the players. But it's not too soon to take a look at how the obvious contenders stack up.

In Mr. Winegrad's 30th District, Delegate John Astle, D-Annapolis, and five-term County Councilwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, have already announced they will run when the senator moves on.

One of Mrs. Clagett's biggest assets is Mr. Winegrad's endorsement of her as his environmental heir apparent. Mrs. Clagett, widely respected for her work on county environmental issues, would pick up where Mr. Winegrad leaves off. (Of course, she'd have to finagle a post on the Environmental Affairs Committee to be effective).

But Mrs. Clagett faces two big problems that make Mr. Astle the favorite in this early going. First, only six of District 30's 38 precincts fall in her councilmanic district. Second, Mr. Astle, a three-term moderate, has been the top vote-getter in the 30th each time he has run.

In District 33, GOP delegates John A. Gary of Millersville and Elizabeth S. Smith of Davidsonville are strong candidates to replace Mr. Cade, the most powerful Republican in the Senate. Mrs. Smith is more likely. She has made no secret of her interest in a Senate seat, and Mr. Gary has said he will defer if she wants this one.

On the Democratic side, Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, is a possibility. And County Council Chairman David G. Boschert of Crownsville, who like Mrs. Clagett is ineligible for another council term, can be counted on to campaign in the 33rd one way or another. Expect him to run for the House unless Mrs. Perry stays put, in which case the ambitious Mr. Boschert might take his chances on the more prestigious Senate seat.

Stay tuned for further developments. The curtain on this little drama has barely begun to rise.


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