Politicos get together in O.C. to meet, greet and schmooze


A THREE-DAY "schmooze-in" takes place in Ocean City every summer. For many politicos, it's a summer rite filled with parties, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, dancing at the Ocean Club and, of course, meetings. The event is more formally called the annual meeting of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO).

Since 1951, the gathering has been a place to see and be seen for aspiring politicians, especially during election years. MACO members are elected officials from Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore. (FYI, the last two governors were past presidents of MACO.) At the crab feast, I met Bernie Hillenbrand, who works for HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros. Bernie says he helped found MACO as well as the National Association of Counties (NACO). At his side was one of Maryland's best-known politicians, State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who told me that he's taking his two daughters with him to the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

The Sunset Room at the Ocean City Convention Center was the scene of a party given by three prominent Democratic county execs -- Montgomery County's Doug Duncan, Harford County's Eileen Rehrmann and Baltimore County's Dutch Ruppersberger. Rumors are hot and heavy about what statewide offices this threesome may run for in 1998. (After all, Dutch was president of MACO this year.) Even Gov. Parris Glendening attended the party. When I saw the guv, he'd cornered former Baltimore County Republican state senator Frank Kelly. One woman told me the guv may have been apologizing to Kelly for a faux pas someone in his office made. The story goes that one of the governor's staffers crossed Kelly's name off a guest list for a party that the governor was supposed to attend.

MACO tidbits:

* Del. Ann Marie Doory, a Baltimore City Democrat, and her husband, Bob, a Miles & Stockbridge attorney, were at a party given by Democrat Mike Miller, Senate president, and the Democratic house speaker, Cas Taylor. She was talking to Maryland Public TV's commissioner, David Nevins, about their good old days at Towson State University, when he was president of the student body association and she was vice-president.

* After dating Mary Jo Huppmann, who's a nurse, for four years, Baltimore County Democrat councilman Sam Moxley decided to pop the question at the MACO meeting. Well, not at the meetings, but on the beach, and she said yes. No wedding date yet.

* Not all Republicans were at the San Diego convention. Baltimore County Del. Donald Murphy and his wife, Gloria, were at MACO, chatting about their pals Mike Burns and Kimberly McCoy, Burns' fiancee, who were in San Diego. A November wedding is planned. Burns, a Republican, is marrying a woman who is not only a Democrat but also a lobbyist. McCoy's also the daughter of former delegate-lobbyist-turned-CEO of Mars Supermarket, Dennis McCoy.

* When I saw Liz and Don Diffenderfer -- he's one of Ruppersberger's campaign associates -- with Lenny Berger, owner of the Sheraton Hotel and other Ocean City establishments, they were still talking about how lucky Don was to be there. Two days before, he had almost died when a wave hit him and he inhaled sea water into his lungs. According to Berger, "Don's lucky to be alive."

* I had a great chat with one of my favorite Baltimore County execs-turned-lobbyists, Dennis Rasmussen. He founded the Rasmussen Group, said to be the third largest lobbying group in Maryland, which will soon broaden its base to D.C.

* It was good to see Bob Sheesley, former director of the Department of Environment for Baltimore County, who moved to Howard County and opened his own environmental consulting firm, ECO Sense Inc.

* Baltimore's eternally young Democratic councilwoman Rikki Spector was at the parties with her Ocean City cousin, Harvey Spector. He moved "down the ocean" years ago and owns Super Sea Rockets, several humongous boats that can whiz through the water with more than a hundred people on board.

* Several people did not recognize Democratic Baltimore County Del. Bob Frank at Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Cas Taylor's party. Frank, who has worn a full beard for 19 years, had shaved his face, and the transformation was amazing. He told me that when he finally decided to shave the beard, he called his children in to watch him shave. After all, they had never seen Dad without the beard, and he was worried that they might not know him when he walked out if they didn't watch him do it. He looks years younger.

* Longtime lobbyist Bruce Bereano, sans 60 pounds, was working off even more weight dancing at his Ocean Club party. Bereano, whose life has been in a holding pattern since his 1994 conviction for mail fraud, is still waiting for a decision on his appeal, which should be announced any day. Meanwhile, Bruce is staying in touch.

* I enjoyed meeting the president of the Ocean City Council, George Feehley, and his wife, Sally. Feehley, a lifeguard many moons ago, recently returned from Durban, South Africa, where he was one of 1,500 who competed in the International Life Guard Competition. He came back a winner with a silver medal in his age group.

* Many thanks to my buddy and former Rasmussen aide-turned-general-manager of the Perring Athletic Club, Judy Sussman, for her help at MACO.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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