The nation has lost its first potential black speaker of the House of Representatives and Maryland, in turn, may have gained its first shot at the post. The resignation of Rep. William H. Gray III of Pennsylvania as House majority whip, the third-ranking position in the Democratic leadership, gives Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland's Fifth District, now chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, an opportunity to move up one more step.
Mr. Hoyer has launched an all-out campaign for this advancement in an uphill fight against Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, the chief deputy whip. Yesterday the Maryland congressman picked up important support in the large California delegation from Rep. Vic Fazio, himself once considered a possible candidate, and from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the daughter of the late Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. of Baltimore.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Hoyer has long been regarded as the most effective member of the Maryland delegation in looking after the state's economic interests. Simultaneously, he has played an insider role in House leadership affairs almost from the moment he arrived on Capitol Hill ten years ago. The combination of both positions has widened his influence, a factor that would be in Maryland's interest if he can move closer to the speakership.