Despite new faces, little change expected for Assembly

September 13, 1990|By Thomas W. Waldron and William Thompson | Thomas W. Waldron and William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff

Despite an election that claimed 15 incumbent lawmakers, the General Assembly's leadership is more or less intact and members are predicting business as usual.

"The Senate goes on," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

"These things happen, every time you have activism, every time you take sides on key issues," said Miller, D-Prince George's.

Six senators lost Tuesday night and one Senate race -- Baltimore Sen. John A. Pica Jr.'s re-election bid in District 43 -- remained too close to call last night. Absentee ballots were expected to decide that race today.

But, counting retirements, at least nine senators out of 47 will not be back, either because of defeat at the polls or retirement. And, at least two other senators face possibly serious challenges in November's general election.

Among Tuesday's casualties were the two senators who hold perhaps the most influence over the budget of anybody in the Senate: Frank J. Komenda, D-Prince George's, and Francis X. Kelly, D-Balto. Co. Komenda and Kelly chaired the two subcommittees of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Miller, assuming that he is re-elected as Senate president when the new legislature convenes next year, must find replacements for them, as well as a new chairman for the finance committee to replace Sen. Catherine I. Riley, D-Harford, who did not run for re-election.

In the House of Delegates, Majority Leader Del. John S. Arnick, D-Balto. Co., was on the verge of defeat, trailing in his race by 26 votes. That election will be decided when absentee ballots are counted.

Besides serving as the right-hand man to House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, Arnick also chaired the House Environmental Matters Committee. No other chairman or vice chairman lost Tuesday's primary vote.

Mitchell still must fill the top position on the Judiciary Committee, a vacancy created when former chairman Daniel M. Long left his Somerset County delegate spot for a judge's seat on the Circuit Court. Mitchell will also have to find a new speaker pro tem to replace Dennis C. Donaldson, who is leaving the legislature to take a job with the state.

Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, the key liaison between the legislature and Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration, said he believes any aftereffects from the primary on the 1991 General Assembly will be barely noticeable to the public.

With no reason to believe that Mitchell or Miller will lose their leadership positions, Steinberg said the new membership likely will influence only the daily operations, not policy, of the two legislative chambers.

"The president and Speaker create the directions that the houses take," said Steinberg. "From all indications, the leadership will remain intact and policy will not be affected."

Abortion-rights forces shored up their strength in the Senate, winning four out of five races in which the candidates had sharply different views on the issue. But, the new makeup of the body is unlikely to affect other issues, where the battle lines are less clearly drawn, said several lawmakers.

"Almost any other issue is negotiable," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-City. "You get the best kind of bill that is acceptable."

Hoffman, who ran unopposed for re-election, predicted that the new Senate would be "probably more liberal, although it's hard to know now."

Hoffman added, however, that "everybody characterizes themselves as fiscally conservative because we have a balanced budget in this state."

On the House side, nine delegates lost. Del. William A. Clark, D-Harford, lost after switching his affiliation from Republican to Democrat, a move some observers said cost him support.

At least three House members who lost had been appointed to fill vacancies and had not been in the legislature long enough to build up the name recognition most incumbents have.

Despite the new personnel, there won't be a need for much orientation, Miller said, because most of the new senators are moving across the hall from seats in the House of Delegates. And Janice Piccinini, who defeated Kelly in her first run for office, is a veteran lobbyist for state teachers as former head of the Maryland State Teachers Association.

Change already wrought upon the legislature by Tuesday's primary may seem significant to State House insiders. But, as one legislative insider put it, the significance dwindles when viewed from a less personal perspective.

"The egos that get people down here makes them think they're irreplaceable," the insider said. "But life goes on."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.