AS THE Republican Party in Maryland considers a successor to the late Sen. John A. Cade, some GOP members, in an ironic twist, are holding up former governor and vice president Spiro Agnew as a despicable political figure in history.
But the sin they point out was not Mr. Agnew's accepting of bribes.
It was consorting with the state's Democratic "movers and shakers." Other transgressions included receiving support from "dominant media, labor unions and money men," according to a recent open letter from Arthur W. Downs of Severna Park to fellow Anne Arundel County Republicans.
While Mr. Downs may take pleasure in mocking Mr. Agnew, the reality is that he was the last Republican to occupy the Governor's Mansion in Maryland.
That was three decades ago.
Members of the GOP's conservative wing are panicked that another candidate might arise to challenge former Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey for the gubernatorial nomination in 1998. Accordingly, they have organized a grass-roots campaign to influence the Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee not to choose Robert R. Neall to fill out the remaining two years of Mr. Cade's term.
Although Mr. Neall has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in the past, many people are jumping the gun. The former Anne Arundel County executive and minority party leader in the House of Delegates has said he would like to fill Mr. Cade's term. He has not said he is interested in running for governor.
In fact, in his letter to the central committee offering himself as candidate for the vacancy, Mr. Neall said he would be interested in running for a full term in the Senate in 1998, meaning he could not simultaneously run for governor. But posing as a possible rival to Ms. Sauerbrey is not the only reason Mr. Neall has generated bitter opposition.
As incredible as it may seem, some members of his own party consider Mr. Neall a traitor because he compromised on issues with Democrats while in the General Assembly. Furthermore, he may even have cut a couple of deals with the
Democratic-controlled County Council when he was county executive.
Apparently, these dealings with Democrats have somehow tarnished Mr. Neall's credentials as an upstanding party
member. Del. Robert C. Baldwin, also interested in filling the vacancy, went so far as to proclaim that he is "more of a Republican" than Mr. Neall.
If refusal to deal with members of the opposing party is the litmus test necessary to receive party support, Republicans in Anne Arundel and in Maryland are destined to remain out of power long into the future. The name of the game should be getting into office (which Mr. Agnew was able to do), and once in office having an impact on government policy, which was Mr. Neall's strength.
In the General Assembly, Republicans, who have been in the minority for all this century, must attract support from Democrats if they are to enact any of their initiatives.
Even Edmund Burke, the quintessential conservative philosopher, recognized the value of compromise.
"All government -- indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act -- is founded on compromise and barter," he said in a 1775 speech about reconciling with the independent colonies in America.
This notion of maintaining an ideological purity has always been fashionable among the fringes of both parties. Hewing to it has also meant that the fringes have been relatively ineffective in having their policies enacted into law.
Unless the basic tenant of democracy -- majority rules -- is repealed, Maryland Republicans have to face an unpleasant reality: To accomplish anything in the General Assembly they will have to deal with Democrats, who continue to outnumber the vTC GOP in both houses. True legislative leaders are able to craft support from both sides of the aisle. In the well of the Senate or House of Delegates, a Democratic vote counts just as much as a Republican's.
If Anne Arundel's interests are to be effectively represented in Annapolis, the county central committee had better appoint a deal-maker to fill out Mr. Cade's term. Rather than being a disqualification for office, Mr. Neall's deal-making skills should be of paramount interest to local party officials.
Of all the possible candidates mentioned for the job, Mr. Neall is the only one who can catapult himself into a leadership role. He can probably do more to see that Republican positions are seriously considered and even incorporated into legislation.
Dogma and politics don't mix well. Asking candidates to pass ideological litmus tests is a prescription to drive away the potentially most effective members of the party.
Torpedoing Mr. Neall's Senate candidacy would be a mistake and send the county party organization -- as well as the state GOP -- on a course that will ultimately prove self-destructive.
Brian Sullam is The Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.
Pub Date: 12/01/96