Jack Cade is the bluntest, smartest man the state Senate cannot live without.
He's also a much nicer guy than he sometimes lets on.
"He scares witnesses to death," said state Sen. Barbara Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat, referring to her Republican colleague. "He is really terrifying if you don't know him."
But she has seen this menacing hulk of a man, this caustic-tongued, ex-Marine, cry. Under all that bluster, lies a heart.
"He's really a marshmallow," she said.
Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, 65, had considered leaving Maryland's Senate this year, possibly to make a bid for lieutenant governor. The thought of carrying on without him alarmed State House colleagues of both parties.
"He's a very pragmatic person who cares, not what's best for either party, but what's best for Maryland," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat.
Mr. Miller is breathing much easier since the Severna Park resident, who has represented District 33 in Anne Arundel County since the district was created in 1974, decided to return to the Senate in June.
It is a return trip that is guaranteed. For the second time in as many elections, no one has stepped forward to challenge Mr. Cade in either the Republican primary or the general election. He is the only Anne Arundel incumbent running unopposed. Statewide, he is one of two Senate candidates without opponents.
"The Senate might have been taken aback at first by his brash and blunt style," said Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall, a Republican, "but, in a funny sort of way, the Senate got addicted to him.
"He is a one-man, vigilante posse for bad [legislation] and bad policy."
Senator Hoffman said that she will be glad to have Mr. Cade back. "We would have had a hard time functioning without him," she said. "He doesn't always win and . . . he's not always right. It's like an itch that has to be scratched, he can always put his finger on the [problem].
"Frankly, he would have been wasted as lieutenant governor," she said.
Jack Cade grew up in the Great Depression. Born in Charleston, S.C., three months before the stock market crash, he and his two younger brothers helped their mother tend a 1-acre truck farm. While their father worked for General Electric, they raised chickens and vegetables to put food on the table and extra money in their pockets.
Later, the family moved to the Cincinnati suburbs and Mr. Cade enlisted in the Marines. It was 1946. Mr. Cade qualified for the G.I. Bill and attended college when his two-year stint ended.
Earned MBA degree
With the federal aid, he earned a master of business administration degree at Northwestern University and went to work at General Electric outside Cincinnati designing a nuclear propulsion system for aircraft.
There, Mr. Cade demonstrated a keen eye for troubled government programs. "After three years, I decided that [the program] wasn't going to fly, and I ought to get out," Mr. Cade recalled.
He left General Electric in 1959 to accept a job at Westinghouse's Friendship defense plant in Anne Arundel County. Prophetically, two years later, President John F. Kennedy canceled the nuclear-propelled aircraft program, leading to 3,000 layoffs at General Electric.
By then, Mr. Cade was safely ensconced at Westinghouse and living in Glen Burnie Park, where he emerged as a critic of the eight county commissioners who ran Anne Arundel. It troubled Mr. Cade that each commissioner had absolute power in his district, deciding which roads were repaired, who received liquor licenses and whose property was rezoned.
As a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic county, the chance that Mr. Cade would be taken seriously politically seemed remote. But Mr. Cade's outbursts at community meetings garnered the attention of a group of Democratic reformers, who already were banking on the viability of another Republican, then-sheriff and state Senate candidate Joseph Alton.
The group and Mr. Alton, who is fixed in lore as Anne Arundel's first county executive, wanted to change the government from a commissioner system dominated by slot machine interests to a professional, charter government ruled by a council and executive.
Mr. Cade took up the cause with gusto, helping to draft the new charter and, for two years, he trooped around the county, climbing upon soapbox after soapbox to plead its merits.
"We have our charter government because of Jack," said County Councilman George Bachman, a Democrat.
New charter approved
After county voters narrowly approved the new charter in 1964, Mr. Cade was a natural choice to join a bipartisan "Charter Ticket," which faced the old commissioners in the new government's first elections. The ticket won, and Mr. Cade became a member of Anne Arundel's first County Council.
"That was the beginning of his political career," said Phillip Scheibe, a member of the Charter Ticket and former councilman. "Jack was a good politician . . . [but] he wasn't the typical slap-your-back, tell-you-you-have-nice-dog, nice-wife type of politician."
The thing you notice first when meeting Jack Cade is his intimidating presence. That's what Mr. Neall noticed, anyway.
"I remember shaking hands with him," Mr. Neall said of their 1972 encounter at a Republican function. "He had a very firm handshake, and I remember thinking, 'This is a very big guy.' "
"He was smart, gruff, blunt -- about what you would expect from a 300-pound ex-Marine," recalled former Anne Arundel County Executive O. James Lighthizer.
What you may not see is the former Marine's love of children, music and antiques.
"He loves to hold babies in those huge hands of his," said Ardath Cade, his wife of 20 years. "And little children tend to respond to him very well. We'll be walking through a restaurant, and Jack will be smiling at the children at other tables, communicating with them the way people do."
"My children were always fond of him," said Mr. Neall. "My 17-year-old still talks about Jack grabbing him and turning him upside down, playing with him at those long, fund-raising events."
Mr. Cade also enjoys playing the piano -- everything from Scott Joplin to Mozart -- and refinishing antique furniture.
"I'm weird for old boxes, I don't know why," Mr. Cade said. "They are stacked up somewhere in my house waiting for my attention. They're sort of my stockpile or inventory. I don't ever want to run out of work. I'll run out of storage space first."
Mass transit supporter
Many know Mr. Cade as an an ardent supporter of mass transit, such as the Baltimore Central Light Rail line, which he is lobbying to extend from Glen Burnie to Annapolis. But his wife says it is an interest that he takes with him when he goes home -- and abroad.
An avid tourist, "He likes to check out the light rail system or the subway wherever we go," said Mrs. Cade, listing San Francisco and Ireland among his favorite destinations.
Mr. Cade is most widely known for his prowess with budgets. Since he was first elected to the council 30 years ago, he has been credited with understanding them better than many bureaucrats who put them together. And woe to the bureaucrat who tries to slip something past him.
Sen. Laurence Levitan, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said Mr. Cade used to pick apart the budget on the Senate floor, tying up the legislature eight or nine hours at a time, before the Democrats decided to put him on the committee.
"He still does the same things," Mr. Levitan said. "Now, it just doesn't tie up the whole Senate."
Less well-known is Mr. Cade's soft spot for social and environmental programs.
Dislikes 'numbers' tag
Ask Mr. Cade about his reputation as a "numbers cruncher" and he might snap, as he did recently, "I hope I just don't go down as the numbers guy."
He is particularly proud that he played a key role in the passage of a 1991 law requiring developers to replace the trees they cut down. "We have to leave something for the next generation," he said. "We can't screw it all up."
Senator Hoffman said he shows the same compassion for the less fortunate.
"You wouldn't expect him to be sympathetic to educational opportunities for poor children or see him so pleased and moved when we've had people" who had turned their lives around come before the budget panel, she said. "He gets tearful."
Mr. Cade is widely looked to as a leader of the Republican Party, and was on gubernatorial candidate Helen Delich Bentley's short list of potential running mates. But Mr. Cade's support for educational and social programs often set him at odds with other Republicans.
Mr. Cade dismisses the criticism.
"I do what my conscience tells me to do," he said.
"We're not running a . . . debating society down there. I don't see anything productive in . . . partisan politics."