Crashing the parties; Rumors: Although the state GOP made gains last week, rumors circulated that two key senators were defecting to the Democratic Party. They denied the talk.


ALL IN ALL, IT WAS A good week for the Maryland Republican Party, which is still trying to erase nightmarish memories of the 1998 election.

The party's legislative caucus struck an aggressive tone when it vowed to raise $1 million to help GOP candidates for the General Assembly in 2002 -- an unheard-of sum for the party.

And the state's Republicans played host to more than 200 activists who went to Annapolis for the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference.

But the party was dogged by rumors of high-level defections.

One version circulating last week had two of the GOP's most respected legislators, Sens. Robert R. Neall of Anne Arundel County and Patrick J. Hogan of Montgomery County, becoming Democrats.

Both have worked well with the Democratic majority in the Senate, generally choosing cooperation rather than confrontation.

Will they switch parties?

No, says Hogan.

Probably not, says Neall.

"The thought has crossed my mind from time to time," said Neall, the former Anne Arundel County executive. He is recognized as one of the General Assembly's budget experts, and his opinions carry great weight with Democrats.

But he says he isn't changing parties -- at least not now.

"I don't think anything's going to happen anytime soon," Neall said.

Political advising stays in the family

Rob Johnson and Karen White are becoming the first couple of Maryland, when it comes to political advisers.

White landed in the state last year to help revive Gov. Parris N. Glendening's troubled re-election effort. A veteran of several campaigns around the country, she won strong reviews, particularly for her work generating an impressive turnout of Democratic voters on Election Day.

Johnson, who is White's husband, has been hired as the executive director of the state Democratic Party.

Party sources said Johnson was hired at Glendening's direction.

White remained in Maryland after the election to serve as a full-time political adviser to Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is planning a run for governor in 2002.

Might other Democratic gubernatorial candidates be miffed that someone with such close ties to Townsend's inner circle runs the party?

Johnson, 36, says his wife's work with Townsend could become an issue as the election for governor nears. For now, he says he is focusing on the 2000 election and the Democratic National Convention next summer. After that, if enough people object, he will leave the job.

Ex-DNR secretary hired by sanitary commission

John R. Griffin, the politically well-connected former Maryland natural resources secretary, has landed on his feet.

During the summer, Glendening fired Griffin after five years on the job. His reasons remain unclear.

Last week, Griffin was selected as the top administrator at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission -- at an annual salary of $140,000, about $26,000 more than he was making in Glendening's Cabinet.

Griffin won key support for the job from two politicians who have strained relationships with Glendening -- Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Infighting seems to continue on Board of Public Works

No sign of a truce has surfaced in the war between Glendening and the other two members of the Board of Public Works, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.

Last week, Schaefer and Dixon got together to pass a resolution in support of the Intercounty Connector -- a resolution that was symbolic but was a rare in-your-face rejection of the governor.

More quietly, the two men also dissed Glendening last week by choosing the new secretary to the board without consulting him, sources said.

The two men tapped Sheila McDonald to be acting secretary after the retirement of Sandra K. Reynold. Glendening had someone else in mind for the job, according to sources.

Councilman takes part in different kind of race

Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. is practicing his form of zero-tolerance crime fighting.

The 32-year-old West Baltimore resident was watching football last week when he heard a noise in his neighbor's house. Mitchell confronted a stranger walking out of the house. The stranger dashed.

Mitchell chased the intruder for several blocks, joined by police, who apprehended him. Mitchell was most shocked by the man's response.

"He said, 'Good run, man,' as if we just finished playing a game of pickup basketball," Mitchell said.

Pub Date: 10/05/99

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