ANNAPOLIS -- Still bristling over Gov. William Donald Schaefer's odoriferously off-color description of the Eastern Shore, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, demanded yesterday a formal apology from the state's chief executive.
"The governor owes more than a public apology," said Mr. Mitchell, who has represented his Upper Eastern Shore district since 1971. "He owes an apology to each individual [on the Shore] personally."
Last Friday, as the governor was walking down the aisle of the House chamber for the ceremonial installation of state Treasurer Lucille Maurer, he reportedly asked a group of Shore lawmakers, "How's that s---house of an Eastern Shore?"
Eastern Shore delegates and senators said they were stunned by the governor's language. Several have called for a meeting with Mr. Schaefer to hear a full explanation of the comment.
After losing seven of the nine Eastern Shore counties in the November election, the governor has frequently complained that his efforts for that region have gone unappreciated, particularly the millions of dollars that have paid for improvements to U.S. 50 and the widening of the beach at Ocean City.
Attending a meeting of the National Governors' Association in Washington, Governor Schaefer said yesterday the "s---house" description was meant in jest and was the continuation of a running joke he had maintained with an unnamed Shore lawmaker.
"It was a joke," Mr. Schaefer said. "I've joked with him for months, about from September, when I had a tough time on the Shore" in the primary election.
Asked about his other comments about the Eastern Shore, such as a previous suggestion that Shore residents were "clannish," the governor said, "They are clannish. They're parochial, no question about that. They tell me that 'we don't want any change over here.' "
Speaker Mitchell said he had been contacted by numerous Shore residents who were "absolutely livid" over the governor's remark.
"They're outraged," Mr. Mitchell said. "In fact, there are a lot of people who would like to see him impeached."
Mr. Mitchell said that while he had taken the comment as a "personal affront," he would not use his authority as House speaker to take revenge on the administration's legislative package.
Mr. Mitchell suggested that Governor Schaefer ought to take a similar approach to elected office and "govern all of the state."
Across the Eastern Shore, the governor's remark was Topic A among politicians. Vincent Gisriel Jr., an Ocean City councilman, said the governor had failed to realize that conservative Eastern Shore voters simply disliked his big-spending ways.
"It's his overall fiscal approach that upsets most people," Mr Gisriel said.
Others said they were fearful the governor would withhold money from Eastern Shore projects as a form of retribution against his poor showing in the election.
"He's going to have a miserable time for four years if he continues to carry on like this," said Clinton S. Bradley 3rd, a Talbot County councilman.
H. Hurtt Deringer, who is editor of the Kent News of Kent County, called the governor's remark "one of the great gaffes of history" and said that it "will not be forgotten" by Shore residents.
"I'm reminded of a line from Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar': 'Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed that he is grown so great?' " Mr. Deringer said. "He's on an ego trip."
Delegate K. Bennett Bozman, D-Worcester, who was shaking Mr. Schaefer's hand when the governor uttered the offending words, said he was particularly surprised since his native Worcester County voted for the governor. Mr. Schaefer ultimately defeated his Republican opponent by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.
"The governor and I have always joked around, but I've never heard him use a vulgarity like that," Delegate Bozman said.
The Maryland Republican Party also weighed in yesterday with a reaction to the remark with a one-page statement demanding Governor Schaefer apologize for his "crude and offensive reference to the Shore and its people."