MARYLAND REPUBLICANS have broken the magic barrier.
The GOP couldn't help crowing last week about the fact that for the first time since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans in the state has inched below 2-to-1.
OK, so it was only 1.991-to-1.
But for a party that at times has been outnumbered in Maryland by as much as nearly 3-to-1 in the past six decades, this was a momentous occasion.
"We have been working towards the moment for a very long time," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, the state's GOP chair. "It is the product of thousands of hours of voter registration efforts by countless dedicated volunteers. The achievement is all the sweeter because of all the effort that went into it."
The Aug. 31 voter registration figures -- the latest available, released last week by the State Administrative Board of Election Laws -- show 1,430,739 Democrats, compared with 718,554 Republicans, are registered in Maryland.
(Of course, the Democrats still control the Maryland State House, both U.S. Senate seats and four of the state's eight congressional seats.)
The new figures show that 18,585 fewer Democrats registered since the first of the year and 22,607 more Republicans are on the voter rolls. The net figures -- which factored in voters who have died, moved or placed on inactive lists -- show that 1.52 Democrats are registering for every new Republican.
But, those voters who are being registered thanks to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 -- the so-called "motor voter" law that became effective Jan. 1 -- are picking the Democratic Party over the GOP at a ratio of just 1.1-to-1.
Ironically, it was the Republicans who repeatedly tried to kill the motor voter law on Capitol Hill, predicting fraud, abuse and a tilt of voter rolls in favor of the Democrats. Now, at least in Maryland, the law seems to be working to the advantage of the GOP.
Ms. Terhes, of course, used the opportunity to take a swipe at incumbent Democrats, in particular President Clinton and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who narrowly defeated Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in November.
"Our job registering Republicans has been made much easier in recent years because of the unpopularity of Bill Clinton and Parris N. Glendening," Ms. Terhes said. "Outside of a very few Democratic strongholds in Maryland, our volunteers are warmly welcomed by prospective voters, who are fed up with bloated deficits, high taxes and wasteful government spending."
Neville is recommended for state Democratic post
Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, the Democrat from Baltimore's 42nd District, stepped down last week as vice chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party.
In her place, Governor Glendening has recommended that Mary Jo Neville, a longtime Democratic Party activist from Catonsville, take over the No. 2 spot, behind former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, the party chair.
Ms. Neville, 37, a former staffer for 3rd District Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and now a lobbyist for the Maryland State Teachers Association, is expected to be named acting vice chair at a meeting of the party's executive committee Thursday.
An elected member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee since 1982, she also served one term on the Democratic National Committee's executive committee from 1988 to 1992.
Hirschburg to advise Russian party leaders
In other Republican news:
* Carol L. Hirschburg, a GOP political campaign consultant based in Owings Mills, is off this weekend for Moscow, the first stop in a 10-day trip as an adviser at an International Republican Institute campaign seminar for Russian party leaders.
Ms. Hirschburg, who was Mrs. Sauerbrey's press secretary and finance director, will advise the Russians on dealing with the press during their elections. IRI is a nonprofit pro-democracy organization funded by government, private and foundation grants.
* Mrs. Sauerbrey was honored last month by the National Federation of Republican Women with its first Margaret Chase Smith Award, named for the first woman to be elected to both the U.S. House and Senate.
The federation, a 115,000-member women's political organization, honored Mrs. Sauerbrey, the former Maryland House minority leader from Baltimore County, at its national convention in Albuquerque, N.M.