By locking out Republican lawmakers, Delegate Michael Busch closed the door on W. Ray Huff's bid to become chairman of the Anne Arundel County House contingent.
Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, was re-elected, 10-0, Thursday as chairman. The county's three Republican delegates abstained in protest.
The real decision, Republican Delegate John Gary complained, was made earlier in a closed-door caucus where the delegation's 10 Democrats deadlocked, 5-5.
"If they had brought it out to the full delegation without going back into the caucus, Ray Huff would be chairman right now," said Gary of Millersville.
But, in a second round of Democratic balloting, Delegate Patrick Scannello, D-Glen Burnie, brokethe deadlock, throwing his support behind Busch. And, in the full delegation meeting, the Democrats unanimously elected Busch to his second one-year term.
Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, was elected vice chairman.
The chairman, whose influence varies with the individual legislator and the size of the delegation, organizes local lawmakers on issues of special importance to the county. He or she also sponsors legislation for the county.
Explaining her abstention, Delegate Elizabeth Smith, R-Davidsonville, said, "Why should I rubber-stamp a decision that was made in the back room?"
Huff, D-Pasadena, said he jockeyed for the job because he felt "it had been in the same community long enough." An Annapolis delegate has held the chairmanship for a decade, he noted.
"I probably should have made some deals to get it, but I didn't," said Huff.
Scannello said he initially felt a need to replace Busch. But, when the Democrats deadlocked, "I figured I would vote for Mike to get things going. Otherwise, they'd be sitting there three to four weeks batting this back and forth."
Gary and Smith complained the chairmanship should not be such a partisan issue year after year. If the county's voter enrollments continueto shift toward the GOP, the shoe may soon be on the other foot, Gary said.
"Right now, they're the majority party, and they're flexing their muscle," said Gary, "That's the way politics become ugly."
Delegate Victor Sulin, D-Severn, said, "the public looks askance at so much of what we do because so much of it involves partisan politics, maneuvering to get the upper hand. Maybe it's time both sides rethink the way we do some of these things."