John S. Arnick is reportedly interested in regaining his old seat in the House of Delegates. The Baltimore County Democratic State Central Committee, which is expected to recommend someone for the vacant 7th District slot next week, would be making a mistake if it chose Mr. Arnick.
Just last winter, Mr. Arnick was at the center of one of the biggest controversies to hit Annapolis in recent memory. A Dundalk delegate of long standing, he seemed a shoo-in for a District Court judgeship until he withdrew his nomination over charges that he had made vulgar and sexist remarks to women lobbyists a year earlier.
After Mr. Arnick had resigned his delegate's seat in preparation for his apparent judgeship-to-be, the vacancy was filled with the appointment of Edward "Nipper" Schafer, a Central Committee member. But three weeks ago, Mr. Schafer died of a heart attack during a softball game. Now the committee must suggest someone to fill the seat again. Gov. William Donald Schaefer would then have about two weeks to name the person who would serve out the remaining 15 months of the current term.
It should not be Mr. Arnick. His defenders say he would be a fine choice because he had been a good legislator and, unlike a novice appointee, he would not have to learn the ropes during the term's final General Assembly session.
These might be valid points. However, they are overshadowed by the fact that Mr. Arnick would return to Annapolis bearing a large red mark from the disturbing controversy that unfolded one year ago. Indeed, when Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Clay Mitchell last week issued a sexual harassment policy for state lawmakers, the two presiding officers noted it was drafted in response to the Arnick affair.
Any bill with Mr. Arnick's name on it isn't likely to be taken seriously by many of his colleagues, especially in the Senate. Women's groups would watch him closely for any mis-steps. In short, his presence would create the kind of awkward predicament the legislature doesn't need. More important, it would ill serve residents of his district.
The Baltimore County delegation has enough of a reputation problem, given the hijinks of Del. Leslie Hutchinson. The Central Committee would do better to name someone else to fill the position. If John Arnick has his eye on his old seat, he can run for it next year. Then the people of Dundalk can decide whether they want him, once again, as their elected representative in the House of Delegates.