Exit also the House of Delegates


A MONTH ago we discussed the sea changes in store for the 1994 Maryland Senate. The House of Delegates, too, is ready for a make-over the likes of which hasn't been seen in Annapolis in decades.

A sampling of the House roster shows that reapportionment and retirement, as well as the primal urge to move up or out, could deplete the House leadership and remove a number of veterans from both parties. Just how deep the purge will reach depends on how unforgiving the electorate is next year.

A major question is whether Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, will be returning. Mr. Mitchell has had a rough second term as presiding officer. He's been criticized for his autocratic management style. He's been challenged by his own speaker pro tem. He's been investigated by the state special prosecutor. And he's come under fire recently for testifying in favor of legislation that was promoted by a lobbyist who employs his son.

Mr. Mitchell's uncertain future has already set off a chase to succeed him. Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, wants the job. So, too, does Nancy Kopp, D-Montgomery, who was removed as speaker pro tem after a failed attempt to unseat Mr. Mitchell and take over his job. Add to the mix Howard "Pete" Rawlings of Baltimore, who as chairman of the Appropriations Committee is in excellent position to reach for the ring of the House's top job.

Already Del. Tyrus S. "Bunk" Athey, D-Anne Arundel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and a 26-year veteran of the House, has resigned to become secretary of state -- a lower calling but at a higher salary. John Arnick resigned from the House and as chairman of the Judiciary Committee for a nomination to a judgeship that backfired.

And recently, Del. Patrick C. Scanello, D-Anne Arundel, died while serving his 14th year as a delegate. Anne Arundel also stands to lose two senators in the next round of elections, thus clearing the way for House members to reach for higher office.

Baltimore City will be losing its share of incumbent delegates by dint of the redrawn legislative map and the upward mobility of some of them.

Reapportionment has squeezed four incumbent delegates into Northwest Baltimore's 42nd District. Fighting for three seats in the 42nd are Dels. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, James W. Campbell, Margaret "Maggie" MacIntosh and Leon Albin. At least one will not be returning.

Departing the 42nd District is Del. Delores Kelley. Reapportionment has given Ms. Kelley a free ride for senator in the new district along the Liberty Road corridor.

In Northeast Baltimore, both Dels. Curt Anderson (10 years) and Gerald J. Curran (26 years) are considering a run against Sen. John A. Pica Jr., chairman of the city's senators.

On the city's west side, Del. Elijah E. Cummings (10 years) is talking about leaving the House to run against Sen. Larry Young, whose pending legal dither could render him vulnerable. To the east, Del. John Douglass (22 years) has already announced that he will not be returning to the House.

And in Southwest Baltimore, Del. R. Charles Avara (26 years) has made a heroic comeback after brain surgery, but it's doubtful he'll run for the House again next year. Similarly, the wily Del. Paul E. Weisengoff is considering bowing out after 26 years, in part because the Southwest Baltimore district he shares with Mr. Avara now covers more Baltimore County real estate than city turf.

Another key to the House leadership scramble is whether D. Bruce Poole of Washington County, the majority leader, will leave the House to run for Congress against incumbent one-term Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Linked to that is the prospect that ,, Del. Thomas H. Hattery, D-Frederick, might join the fray and make another attempt to win the Western Maryland seat he lost to Mr. Bartlett last year.

In Baltimore County, the futures of Republican Dels. Ellen Sauerbrey (14 years), Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (six years) and A. Wade Kach (18 years) are very much up in the air because of reapportionment as well as uncertainties within the GOP. However, Ms. Sauerbrey, the House minority leader, is on every Republican's short list for governor or Congress if Rep. Helen Delich Bentley decides on a career change.

Another Baltimore County Republican who's feeling pressure because of legislative mapmakers is Richard C. Matthews, a 26-year veteran of the House. And on the east end of Baltimore County, Democrat Joseph Bartenfelder's considering running for county executive or the Senate after 10 years in the House. Del. Gerry L. Brewster is considering a run for Congress if Mrs. Bentley runs for governor.

In Montgomery County, reapportionment has given Del. Gene W. Counihan an opportunity to step up to the Senate after 10 years in the House, where he's chairman of his county's delegation. And in Prince George's, the redoubtable Del. Timothy F. Maloney is talking seriously about not returning after 14 years.

Frederick County may lose the services of Del. James E. McClellan after 14 years. And in Howard County, Republican Del. Robert H. Kittleman could be squeezed out of office by the vicissitudes of reapportionment. In Southern Maryland, Del. Michael J. Sprague is about to call it quits after 18 years. So, too, are fellow Southern Maryland Dels. John F. Slade III and Stephen J. Braun.

The House has been wracked by years of internecine warfare over tax policies. It's been ripped apart by regional rivalries. It's been divided by the ham-handed dictates of its speaker. High on loyalty but low on decorum, the House resembles not so much a parliamentary body as it does the warring ethnic factions of an East-bloc nation.

Yet for the past several years, the House has been the power center of Annapolis, not only because of its size and structure but also because Gov. William Donald Schaefer has relinquished more and more responsibility and authority to Mr. Mitchell through surreptitious deals on such tetchy matters as redistricting and fiscal policy. So the loss of so much experience and so many mustard-cutters could dramatically alter the balance of power in the State House.

With a new governor, high turnover in the Senate and a possible new leadership lineup in the House, the State House organization chart will never look the same again. That's the way God intended it. Who says elections aren't every bit as sanitizing as term limitations?

Frank A. DeFilippo writes on alternate Thursdays on Maryland politics.

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