ALTHOUGH Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his staff have mastered the art of concealing important events in his life, word eventually spills out.
When the governor and former wife Frances Hughes Glendening divorced in November, they were in and out of a Prince George's County courthouse without notice. Reporters were clueless that a court date had been scheduled.
When he was remarried 11 days ago, to former aide Jennifer E. Crawford, a civil ceremony was held inside the governor's mansion three days before the news surfaced.
And when he left Annapolis for a brief honeymoon last week, the governor left no word of his destination. Even his communications director, Michael Morrill, said he didn't know where the first couple had headed.
But soon after Glendening and Crawford departed for a post-wedding trip, some State House observers said the couple had checked into the Greenbrier, a 6,500-acre resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
When a well-wisher called the resort last week and asked if the Glendenings could receive flowers there, the clerk said to send them on and they'd get to the right couple. (According to the resort's Web site, the honeymoon package costs $464 a night.)
The governor returned to official duties Thursday with an hour-long appearance on WTOP, a Washington-area radio station. While refusing to confirm where he had traveled, he accepted the host's congratulations.
"I don't normally comment on my private life," Glendening said, "but I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the many, many Marylanders who have called and dropped notes. ... I'm happy. Jennifer is happy.
"As I was driving back, coming through portions of West Virginia and Virginia, I could tell instantly when we hit Maryland because of the quality of the roads," he said.
Although Maryland has a new first lady who is a former deputy chief of staff, she is not expected to use her position to advocate signature issues in public.
Officials also say no major changes are planned for Government House, though an exercise room adjacent to the mansion's living quarters has been repainted in lavender. The cost of the improvement: about $400.
Before Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. leaps into a governor's race, he and others would like to make sure a Republican holds the 2nd District congressional seat -- drawn to help an expected bid by Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat.
So the National Republican Congressional Committee is willing to spend some of the record $68.6 million it raised last year on polling in Maryland, figuring out who the strongest GOP contender would be.
The names to be surveyed as potential Ehrlich replacements are Del. James F. Ports Jr., the House of Delegates minority whip; Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the two-time candidate for governor; and Helen Delich Bentley, the former congresswoman who represented the 2nd District from 1985 to 1994.
Ehrlich says he is under pressure from congressional Republicans to either run for re-election or make sure a GOP successor is lined up to help the party preserve its single-digit advantage in the House of Representatives.
New 6th appears inviting to Carroll Co.'s Haines
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a veteran Republican who has barely broken a sweat in recent elections, could face a serious challenge in the newly redrawn 6th District this year.
State Sen. Larry E. Haines, a popular conservative from Carroll County, says he's seriously considering a GOP primary challenge to the 75-year-old Bartlett. Haines is planning on making a decision shortly after the General Assembly session ends in April.
"I'm scratching the itch a little more these days," said Haines, who has done little to hide his congressional ambitions.
Haines, a leader of the Assembly's anti-abortion forces, said the new district's boundaries look mighty inviting. The new 6th is less dominated by Western Maryland than it was previously, stretching all the way from Garrett County to the Susquehanna River.
Challenging Bartlett could make sense for the 63-year-old Haines. If he waits for the incumbent to retire, he would likely face a flock of younger Republicans eager to stake their claim to an attractive prize.
Governor appoints Bates to fill vacant House seat
Gail H. Bates, an accountant and former aide to Del. Donald Murphy of Catonsville, was appointed by the governor yesterday to the House of Delegates.
Bates, a Republican, fills the vacancy created when Del. Robert H. Kittleman of Howard County resigned his District 14B seat to become a state senator. Kittleman replaced Christopher J. McCabe, who left the Senate to take a Bush administration job.
Bates intends to seek election in the fall.