Early Tuesday morning, Phillip Bissett boxed up Dr. Aris Allen's remaining belongings -- a few bits of red ribbon, campaign stationery and a camera -- for the late delegate's family.
The walls of Allen'sDistrict 30 office were already bare. Someone had removed the pictures and citations that chronicled the 80-year-old delegate's lengthy legislative career. Only a few picture hooks remained.
Bissett, a supermarket warehouse employee, was appointed last week to serve the remainder of Allen's term. Allen, who had terminal cancer, committed suicide Feb. 8.
A conservative Republican from the Mayo Peninsula, Bissett has set out to remake the office in his own image.
"We need to get some flowers in here first of all," said Bissett, sitting in the windowless office. "I'm an outdoor-type person. I've got to be outside or I go crazy."
Bissett, 34, also brings his own political philosophy and constituency. He wants to cut state spending, restrict access to abortion and protect the rights of gun owners.
"I can explain my conservative philosophy very simply,"
hesaid. "You don't spend more than you make. If you commit a crime, you go to jail. And, if you cut all the trees down today, you won't have any left tomorrow."
Many Republicans and Democrats had hoped theGOP State Central Committee would nominate a candidate who shared Allen's moderate views and would represent the blacks and crossover Democrats who voted for Allen.
But the panel chose Bissett over 11 other candidates, including one recommended by Allen in documents mailed before his death. Committee members said Bissett's campaign for oneof the three District 30 seats last fall weighed heavily in his favor.
"Let's get it straight from the start, I'll never follow in or fill his footsteps," Bissett said. "We don't want to tailor our message to any particular group. Hopefully, we'll spell out our message and people will want to follow it.
"We all breathe the same air, walk the same ground and eat the same food. So I think bringing color into it is irrelevant. Aris Allen was not elected because of the colorof his skin. He was elected because of the content of his character."
Delegate Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, who is chairman of the 13-member county House delegation, said he had supported Dallas Evans, who was Allen's campaign treasurer, for the seat.
"Those 17,000 votes for Allen were votes for his stance on abortion, gun control and other issues," Busch said. "I thought given the ties between them that Dallas would most closely reflect the agenda of the voters who sent Dr. Allen down here."
Annapolis Alderman Carl Snowden said of Bissett, "You couldn't find a candidate whose views are more diametricallyopposed to Dr. Allen's. He has a large challenge ahead of him. He has to win the confidence of the Afro-Americans within his own party, which to date he hasn't done. Then he has to moderate his views enoughto win the support of blacks and whites within the Democratic party."
Bissett, who has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee,was born in Bethesda, Montgomery County. His family moved to the Mayo Peninsula in 1966. Bissett has lived on the Rhodes River ever since.
He graduated from Southern High School, where he captained the soccer and wrestling squads, in 1974.
Bissett entered politics as avolunteer for Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign and learnedsome important lessons.
"I went to a fund-raiser wearing a dark suit and a white tie," he recalled. "And I was just standing there, when people started handing me their dirty plates. They thought I was just more of the help. That was one of my first lessons in politics: If you don't want to put away the plates, you got to get out there andshake some hands."