DEL. MARGARET H. MURPHY, who has represented West Baltimore's 41st District in the Maryland House of Delegates since 1978, is stepping down from her seat before the General Assembly convenes again in January.
Mrs. Murphy, 65, a retired public school administrator who led the 41st District's House ticket in November, confirmed that she has decided to call it quits and has notified House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. that she will not be back.
But what could have been a scramble for the open seat may end up being a quiet transition -- thanks to a standing agreement between the district's different Democratic factions, struck to maintain the peace.
The front-runner for the seat is Clay C. Opara, a 30-year-old Baltimore attorney who was hand-picked by Mrs. Murphy and is backed by her political club, the Vanguard Democratic Organization, said state Sen. Clarence W. Blount.
Mrs. Murphy and Mr. Blount, whose Five in Five Democratic Club is the dominant political organization in the 41st, have agreed to back Mr. Opara -- a deal that is tantamount to winning the seat.
The five Baltimore Democratic Central Committee members from the 41st District will select Mrs. Murphy's replacement.
Of the five, Mr. Blount controls two votes -- his own and that of Marshall Pittman, president of the Five in Five. Mrs. Murphy also controls two votes -- her own and that of her Vanguard colleague Agnes B. Welch, the 4th District Baltimore councilwoman.
"We've tentatively agreed it's her call," Mr. Blount said of Mrs. Murphy's pick. "They suggested that's who they want, and that's OK with us."
The fifth central committee member, Del. Frank D. Boston Jr., also is expected to bow to Mrs. Murphy's wishes.
Mrs. Murphy was appointed to the legislature in 1978 to complete the term of her husband, former Del. Arthur G. Murphy Sr., who died in office. She won election later that year and was re-elected every time out thereafter.
A member of the House Environmental Matters Committee, Mrs. Murphy chaired the Baltimore delegation to the General Assembly from 1989 to 1992 -- the first woman to do so.
"Delegate Murphy has been a very stable influence in the 41st," Mr. Blount said. "She's been a very dutiful public servant in the legislature, and in that sense she's going to be sorely missed. "
Mr. Blount, 74, said he believed Mrs. Murphy's health "flavored" her decision, but added, "Sometimes you get just plain tired. You get burned out. The candles do go out."
Political consultant joins Mason-Dixon
Arthur W. Murphy, the political consultant from Baltimore, has joined Mason-Dixon Political Media Research of Columbia as its vice president of sales and marketing.
Mr. Murphy (who is not related to Del. Margaret H. Murphy) has worked on a variety of campaigns. They've included those of former U.S. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias, the Maryland Republican; former Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb; U.S. Rep Kweisi Mfume, Maryland's 7th District congressman; state Sen. Delores G. Kelley of Baltimore County's 10th District; and John ,, A. Pica Jr. of the city's 43rd District.
In last month's Democratic primary in Baltimore, his clients included former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides and City Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, both of whom were defeated.
Ironically, Mr. Murphy is not being hired to do political work.
"The political connections are a secondary consideration," said J. Bradford Coker III, Mason-Dixon's president. "Instead, he'll be working in the corporate community."
Mr. Murphy will be heading the company's corporate and consumer market research arm, which will be renamed Mason-Dixon Market Research.
Activist picked to work on GOP convention
James C. "Chip" DiPaula, a Baltimore County GOP activist, has been named assistant manager for logistics and operations for the Republican National Convention in San Diego next year.
Mr. DiPaula, who lost a primary bid for a 9th District House of
Delegates seat last year, will oversee design and construction at the convention site, and plans for entertainment, transportation, security and housing.