If anyone knows what Sen. John A. Cade is really up to, they aren't saying -- including the Anne Arundel County Republican himself.
Just months after his uncontested re-election bid for the Maryland Senate, Mr. Cade is throwing himself a big-ticket, bipartisan testimonial for "30 years of public service."
His fund-raising target of $150,000 would be a pretty good start on a campaign treasury for a 1998 statewide bid. The question is what he's running for. Governor? Comptroller?
"I think it's too early to do anything other than speculate," Mr. Cade said. "I just want to be prepared. I want to keep my options open."
There is speculation that Mr. Cade may be borrowing a page from the goodwill books of the General Assembly's presiding Democrats, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.
Both raised huge campaign accounts for easy re-election races and then spread the money around to other legislative candidates, thereby cementing their political bases in their respective houses.
With the GOP just nine seats shy of a majority in the upper chamber, it is conceivable that the already popular Mr. Cade could do the same in the 1998 campaign and be well on his way to becoming president of a Republican-controlled Senate.
In the year before November's election, Mr. Cade was touted as a possible candidate for governor, comptroller, lieutenant governor and even U.S. Senate.
But ultimately, the 65-year-old former Marine -- a gruff but affable bear of a man with a reputation for roasting bureaucrats before the Budget and Taxation Committee -- decided to run for a sixth Senate term.
"I don't think I was adequately prepared to exercise options last time," Mr. Cade said. "I had less than $10,000 in the kitty, and I'm hoping never to be in that position again."
The Citizens Committee for Cade will keep a lot of options open for him with the $500-a-ticket fund-raiser May 25 at HarborView Marina and Yacht Club in Baltimore.
What's more impressive than the early start is the list of who has lined up as honorary co-chairs for the testimonial.
That list reads like a who's who of the state GOP, but also includes former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Benjamin L. Cardin, Senate President Miller, state Sens. Clarence W. Blount, Thomas L. Bromwell and Barbara A. Hoffman, and Ocean City Mayor Roland "Fish" Powell. All, of course, are Democrats.
"These are good guys, good friends," Mr. Cade said. "This is supposed to be a testimonial, and I wanted it to have a bipartisan flavor."
The list also includes some big business guns, some of them traditional Democratic contributors close to former Governor Schaefer.
Listed on the invitation are such notables as Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Baltimore businessman Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski. Also Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., Crown Central Petroleum chairman; Louis J. Grasmick, owner of a Baltimore lumber company; and H. Furlong Baldwin, chairman of Mercantile Bankshares Corp.
At this early stage, the conventional wisdom is that Mr. Cade will take a shot at state comptroller in 1998, succeeding Louis L. Goldstein, who just turned 82.
"I think he would be a tremendous candidate for that position, given his knowledge of the budget," said Joyce L. Terhes, the state GOP chairwoman.
"He'll do well with both Republicans and Democrats," said Frank X. Kelly, a former state senator from Baltimore County.
Indeed -- particularly if his honorary co-chairs are any indication. House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. returned to his Cumberland home yesterday after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery last week.
The 60-year-old Democrat is taking it easy and doing well, according to his wife, Polly. But, she added, he is eager to get back in the swing of things.
Although he has had to cancel some appearances, Mr. Taylor is still planning to come to Baltimore at the end of May to receive an award.
He also wants to be out and about in time for a June 14 fund-raiser in Baltimore County, Mrs. Taylor said.