Perhaps Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Maryland's legislative leaders ought to step outside and settle this thing like men.
"How dare you have a lady do your fighting for you?" Schaefer told House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. in a note last week. The Schaefer-gram came after state Treasurer Lucille Maurer stood up to the governor on behalf of the legislature in the latest battle between the branches of state government.
Maurer, acting on behalf of Mitchell and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., helped break a political logjam erected by Schaefer that had stopped some state building projects from going forward.
"I do think it's sexist," a clearly irritated Mitchell, D-Eastern Shore, said yesterday. "If I were Lucy, and I were the woman's caucus, I would think it is sexist."
Maurer, long regarded as one of the most diplomatic figures in Annapolis, declined to comment on the letter. "I was just doing my job," Maurer said.
"I don't think there was any sort of sexist reference to the xTC treasurer," said Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Schaefer. "I think what the governor felt was that the legislative leadership were putting both the treasurer and the comptroller in an untenable and awkward position."
The governor has tried to force legislators into signing public letters of support for state-funded projects in their districts. Schaefer says he is tired of the public casting him as the big spender and wants lawmakers to take the heat with him.
Without their signatures, he has refused to bring the projects before the state Board of Public Works, which must approve all expenditures of more than $5000.
But lawmakers have resisted, saying they approved all the building projects during the state budget process.
Maurer, who is elected by the legislature and represents its interests, pushed the issue at the board meeting last week. A petulant Schaefer relented somewhat and allowed several projects he had held up to gain approval. Legislators considered the whole thing a victory.
Even so, Schaefer seemed to gloat that state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein had not backed up Maurer as legislative leaders had thought he would at last week's meeting. Mitchell had even predicted in an article in The Evening Sun that Goldstein and Maurer together would carry the issue on the three-member Board of Public Works.
"I hope the governor can count to two," Mitchell told a reporter.
The governor's response in his note? "Ha, you can't even count to two."
Miller, who declined to describe a similar note he received from Schaefer last week, noted that it was not unusual for the governor to send messages that might be described as pointed.
"Self-control has never been William Donald Schaefer's forte," said Miller, D-Prince George's. "But when you've got somebody who's leading the state and needs somebody as much as the governor needs Clayton, you really would think the governor would think twice before sending a note such as that."
"I take it in the vein that he was upset," Mitchell added. "I just think I have better business judgment than that."