WASHINGTON -- Maryland Republicans predict Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's outspoken opposition to Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination will cost her when she runs for re-election next year.
"I think it's disgusting what she said," Maryland Republican Party chairwoman Joyce L. Terhes said.
"And I think that people in Maryland are going to remember what she said and how she acted. We have had numerous phone calls in here asking for a change of party affiliation form because they are so disgusted," not only with Mikulski but the entire nomination procedure, Terhes said yesterday.
Two possible Mikulski opponents, Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly and Alan L. Keyes, criticized the senator's position on Thomas and said it should be a campaign issue.
Both Republicans said they would have voted to confirm Thomas, whose nomination was approved Tuesday by the Senate.
But Mikulski's deputy campaign manager, Mike Morrill, said the senator won't be hurt politically.
"When she was speaking on the [Senate] floor about this, she was speaking much to the experiences of people who have experienced sexual abuses," Morrill said, noting she urged women not to "lose heart" because of the vote.
"I think that will resonate with Marylanders . . . I think Marylanders appreciate her for that," he said.
Mikulski championed the cause of Anita Hill, Thomas' former employee, who accused him of sexually harassing her in the early 1980s. Mikulski accused Republicans of smearing Hill and charged the Senate was insensitive to sexual harassment. "The nation is going through a very important teach-in on sexual harassment, but I'm afraid the Senate is about to flunk the course," Mikulski said Tuesday before the vote.
Polls showed most Americans believed Thomas and were upset with the nomination process. But the thousands of people who called Mikulski and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., were evenly divided on whether Thomas should be confirmed, the senators' spokesmen reported.
"I know that there were people who were disappointed in her vote, and that's to be expected," Morrill said. "But she has never made any bones about her stands and why."
One prominent state Democratic Party activist, who asked not to be identified, said the real impact of Thomas' nomination will be felt when he makes decisions on the court.
He said if Thomas rules in "what is perceived to be a conservative type manner" on civil rights or women's is sues, "I think that probably helps Mikulski."
Cassilly, who has announced his candidacy for the Republican Senate nomination, complained that Mikulski didn't wait for the Judiciary Committee to hear all the testimony on Thomas before making up her mind.
Mikulski and Sarbanes said before the hearings into Hill's allegations that they would vote against Thomas based on his views and his performance at the Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Cassilly and Terhes also criticized Mikulski for not giving Thomas the benefit of the doubt concerning Hill's allegations. "I think he should have been confirmed," Cassilly said of Thomas. "Given the kind of scrutiny he received, half the senators in the U.S. Senate wouldn't be there if they received that kind of scrutiny."