Apprenticeships for Republicans

December 29, 1991

Del. John J. Bishop Jr. and Del. Martha S. Klima, both of Baltimore County, have announced they will run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. They are the first incumbent Republican state legislators to run for the Senate (or for governor) in well over a decade. One of the problems with the Republican Party in Maryland has been the lack of a tradition of apprenticeship -- of moving up the ladder from one level of responsibility and visibility to the next.

Democrats have embraced this approach. Gov. William Donald Schaefer was mayor and before that City Council president and councilman. Paul Sarbanes was a state legislator, then a U.S. representative, then a senator. Barbara Mikulski was a city council member, then a U.S. representative, then a senator. Interestingly, she won her party's nomination in a primary that included two members of Congress and a governor. This approach makes sense politically as well as governmentally. Winning elections is a skill that must be honed, as is managing a legislative or executive office.

Republicans used to honor the principle of apprenticeship. The last two Republican U.S. senators from the state climbed the ladder in the traditional way. Charles McC. Mathias was a state legislator, then a U.S. representative and finally a senator. Sen. J. Glenn Beall Jr. followed the same career path. Too often, Republican primaries for statewide offices now are contests among non-officeholders who are, politically speaking, nobodies. They pose no threat to Democrats.

One reason for Maryland's heavy Democratic registration edge is that even conservatives who would be Republicans in other states and who vote Republican in national elections know that the true contests in Maryland are in the Democratic primary. They want their votes to count.

The Senate race this time includes not only two state delegates but also the state's attorney for Harford County, Joseph I. Cassilly, who has been elected to that post three times. These developments suggest -- as does significant growth in GOP registration -- that Republicans now are preparing to make their best effort to transform Maryland into a true two-party state.

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