WITH SO MUCH hostility toward government these days, a life in politics seems less appealing to many, but the allure of power and the challenge of leadership continues to draw talented newcomers.
Young Marylanders in both major parties are making names for themselves in the vineyards of county government, in the General Assembly -- even in an unsuccessful campaign for Congress. Some are already mapping paths to the U.S. Senate and the gov- ernor's mansion.
At The Sun's request, party officials, veteran officeholders and other close observers of the aspiring leadership class identified men and women age 40 or younger worth watching. Ten are profiled here.
To be sure, no list of this sort can be all-inclusive or objective. Age limits are arbitrary, excluding late bloomers with great potential -- men such as Wayne K. Curry, the Prince George's County executive. This year, Mr. Curry made a big impression by forcing the state's most influential public figures to accommodate his demands before agreeing to support a new stadium near Landover for the Washington Redskins.
The Sun's list includes established politicians such as freshman Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., widely viewed as the brightest rising star in the Maryland GOP. Others, like freshman state Del. Rushern L. Baker III, an articulate Democratic attorney from Prince George's County, are relative unknowns.
Leadership contenders are found throughout the state, including Montgomery County, where politicians have sometimes been criticized as inept. State Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr., whose effort to derail the stadium spending packages fell only two votes short, and his colleague, bipartisan Republican Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, could help to change that view.
So could Del. Mark K. Shriver of the Kennedy-Shriver clan, and first-term Democrat County Executive Douglas Duncan.
"He could be governor," says political insider and former Prince George's County Del. Timothy F. Maloney.
In Baltimore County, another first-term executive, C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger III, 50, also figures in speculation about future candidates for governor.
Not too long ago, the GOP bench in this Democrat-dominated state was so shallow that party leaders pulled the names of candidates for top state offices out of the air. Today, Republicans have a farm team.
Their roster includes the sardonic former executive director, Del. Michael W. Burns of Anne Arundel County, and Del. John S. Morgan of Prince George's, who is running for Congress in the state's 5th District.
In Western Maryland, Democrat Del. D. Bruce Poole remains one of the most watched young politicians. After losing his job as House majority leader two years ago, running into payroll tax problems with his law firm in Hagerstown and opposing legislative leaders during the last General Assembly session, even he wonders about his political future.
Others say it is unwise for anyone to dismiss an amiable 36-year-old who combines good looks, brains and wit.
"Bruce has had his share of problems, but I think everybody who works with him says, 'This is a guy who can do anything'," said House Asst. Minority Whip Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County.
At 34, Democratic freshman Montgomery County Del. Cheryl C. Kagan is ambitious and has years of political experience, including work as an abortion rights advocate in Washington. Her colleague, Baltimore Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, 48, a veteran political organizer and diligent lawmaker, is regarded as a legitimate contender for Speaker of the House in the future.
Newcomer Traci K. Miller, a 28-year-old Baltimore prosecutor, won praise in the city for poise, thoughtfulness and chutzpah in an unsuccessful bid this year for the 7th District congressional seat.
"Despite the inexperience, she handled herself really well and made a strong impression throughout the 7th District," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, a fellow Baltimore Democrat.
The city's new, hard-driving council president, Lawrence A. Bell III, 34, could have made the list. He is already jousting with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and may eventually run for mayor himself. Freshman Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, scion of the famous but at times troubled Baltimore political family, seems to have a knack for the legislative process and, perhaps, a bright future.
Michael A. Crumlin, 34, a shrewd Democratic delegate from Prince George's with an MBA from Harvard, was also a contender. Colleagues credit House Majority Leader John Adams Hurson with thinking well ahead of the political curve. But, at 42, the Montgomery delegate just missed the cut-off.
Whether these young politicians will fulfill their promise is anyone's guess. As in other professions, it will depend on energy and drive, luck and timing.
And, of course, politics.
Maryland's rising stars
Del. Rushern L. Baker III - Democrat
Age: 37. Home: Cheverly, Prince George's County.
Job: State legislator.
L Education: Howard University, undergraduate and law school.
Family: Wife, Christa Beverly, an attorney and former lobbyist for the United Negro College Fund. One son and two daughters.
Other job: Attorney in private practice. Legal counsel for a nonprofit, low- and moderate-income housing corporation in Washington.
Role: Independent, bright light.
The word: Asks thoughtful questions on House Judiciary Committee. Entered spotlight this year by fighting public funding for Redskins' stadium in Prince George's. Some thought attacks became gratuitous and could hurt his chances to move into legislative leadership.
Del. Michael W. Burns - Republican
Age: 38. Home: Glen Burnie.
Job: State delegate from Anne Arundel County, attorney.
Education: Towson State University, University of Maryland law school.
Family: Engaged to lobbyist, Kimberly McCoy, former chairwoman of Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee.
Role: Ideological conservative with a sense of humor.
The word: Once a brash young activist and lightning rod for critics of conservatives, he was ousted as executive director of Maryland GOP during a 1989 coup. Now, Democrats and Republicans alike say he has matured, making well-reasoned arguments. Willing to take unpopular positions on issues like domestic violence. Some question his political judgment.
Doug Duncan - Democrat
Age: 40. Home: Rockville.
Job: Montgomery County executive.
Education: Graduated from Columbia University in three years with double major in psychology and political science.
Family: Wife, Barbara, four sons and one daughter.
Last job: Mayor of Rockville.
Role: Omnipresent advocate for Montgomery.
The word: Smart, pragmatic. Spent so much time working for his county in Annapolis this legislative session, he was jokingly referred to as "Delegate Duncan." Showed up at a news conference announcing stadium deal in neighboring Prince George's County to show support and ask for school construction money in return. He got it. Assertive political style has irked some public officials at home.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - Republican
Age: 38. Home: Timonium.
Job: U.S. representative.
Education: Gilman, Princeton, Wake Forest law school.
Family: Wife, Kendel, an attorney and lobbyist for Youth Services International, which runs the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County.
Last job: State delegate and corporate lawyer.
Role: Conservative freshman Republican.
The word: Hottest property in Maryland GOP. Good-looking, glib, gregarious. As a state legislator, earned respect and friendship of Democrats through collegial manner and good political instincts. Talked of as a likely U.S. Senate candidate. Some say he needs more experience. Conservative voting record could be an easy target in moderate Maryland.
Del. Cheryl C. Kagan - Democrat
Age: 34. Home: Rockville.
Job: Freshman state legislator and substitute teacher in Montgomery County public schools.
Education: Vassar College, candidate for a masters in public policy at University of Maryland.
Role: Provider of thoughtful enthusiasm.
The word: Energetic former Washington gun control lobbyist who worked on the Brady bill and federal assault weapons ban. Won 10-way primary race in first run for public office in 1994. Some say she's still a little too "Capitol Hill" for the informal State House.
Traci K. Miller - Democrat
Age: 28. Home: Baltimore.
Job: Baltimore City prosecutor, juvenile courts division.
Education: Degree in political science from University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland law school.
The word: In first run for public office, showed considerable nerve by going after the 7th District congressional seat. Impressed veteran politicians with message of personal responsibility, polish and energy. Finished ninth in a primary field of 27. Grew up in Columbia. Runs a high school scholarship program.
Del. John S. Morgan - Republican
Age: 32. Home: Laurel.
Job: Prince George's state delegate, engineer.
Education: Graduated from Loyola College in three years, Ph.D in engineering from Johns Hopkins.
Role: Earnest conservative.
The word: After a bumpy start, has become an articulate floor leader for Republicans. Taking off from job at Hopkins Applied Physics Lab for David-and-Goliath congressional campaign against well-funded U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer. Very hard worker.
Del. Clay C. Opara - Democrat
Age: 31. Home: Baltimore.
Job: Baltimore state delegate, private attorney.
Education: State University of New York at Buffalo, University of Maryland law school.
Role: Savvy analyst.
The word: Combines freshness with the old school of Baltimore politics. Impressed some legislative leaders during his first year in public office as well-spoken and analytical. Cool and confident. Like some other freshmen, could spend more time reading the bills.
Del. D. Bruce Poole - Democrat
Age: 36. Home: Hagerstown.
Job: Western Maryland legislator, attorney.
Education: Washington and Lee, college and law school.
Family: Wife, Kathleen, administrator with a private nonprofit.
Role: Charismatic maverick.
The word: Lost his job as House majority leader in 1993 after he was slow to support Cas Taylor's successful campaign for House speaker. Re-established himself this year leading fight against publicly funded football stadiums. Most quotable person the State House. Republicans want him to switch parties. Weaknesses: Has alienated legislative leadership, may not have big enough political base to run state-wide. Openly jokes about his roller-coaster career.
Del. Mark K. Shriver - Democrat
Age: 32. Home: Bethesda.
Job: Freshman Montgomery County delegate and long-distance phone company executive.
Education: Holy Cross College, master's in public administration from Harvard.
Family: Wife, Jeanne, account executive with American Express.
Role: Quietly competent Kennedy.
The word: Son of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver. Founded well-regarded Choice program for troubled youths. Ran superb 1994 election campaign. In his first year, successfully pushed bill to take away driver's licenses from deadbeat parents who don't pay child support. Cautious.
Frank Langfitt has covered the Maryland General Assembly for The Sun since 1994. Next week, he moves to The Sun's Washington bureau to cover the state's congressional delegation.
Pub Date: 5/05/96