Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County is expected to drop his bid for Maryland attorney general later this month, a move that could give former U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett a clear and uncontested shot at the Republican nomination.
Mr. Flanagan declined to confirm or deny reports from Republican Party sources that he has decided to withdraw from the race, but he acknowledged that he plans to make a statement later this month in conjunction with Mr. Bennett's expected formal announcement of candidacy.
Mr. Flanagan, a 47-year-old lawyer from Ellicott City, initially expressed interest in running for attorney general a year ago. But he said at the time that he would not run if the incumbent, Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr., was in the race.
Mr. Curran was then considering a race for governor, but last week he abandoned those plans to run for a third term as !B attorney general.
According to three persons active in Maryland Republican politics, Mr. Flanagan disclosed his decision to drop out of the race during a private meeting among all potential statewide GOP candidates or their surrogates held last week.
This past spring, it became obvious that Mr. Bennett, now a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Miles & Stockbridge, was the favorite for the race among Republican Party regulars.
In a straw poll held in advance of the party's May convention, Mr. Bennett received 193 first-place votes for attorney general to Mr. Flanagan's 77.
Mr. Flanagan said yesterday that if he does not run for attorney general, his options include running for the state Senate in the newly redrawn 12th Legislative District. He said he also could move his residence back to his current but redrawn District 14A and simply seek re-election.
Mr. Flanagan has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1987. He has served on both the Judiciary and Appropriations committees.
In addition to Mr. Curran, two other Democrats say they will seek their party's nomination for attorney general.
* Former Deputy Attorney General Eleanor Carey, now in private practice in Baltimore.
* Rockville lawyer Patrick J. Smith, who ran Paul Tsongas' presidential campaign in Maryland in 1992.