Is there a Carter in Tsongas?

Annapolis Watch '92

March 09, 1992

When former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas came to Annapolis last summer, Del. Carol Petzold, D-Montgomery, went a reception for him.

She didn't stay long. Something about not wanting to fall asleep on her feet. She didn't vote for him last Tuesday, either.

But Mr. Tsongas seems to have developed an ability to attract people's attention. He's won two primaries, finished near the top in a third, done well in caucus states and stands as one of the two front-runners.

Delegate Petzold is impressed -- and, in a way, she should have seen it coming.

She remembers being invited to a Sunday afternoon party in Montgomery County some years ago. Something about meeting the governor from Georgia. Jimmy somebody.

"Why do I want to meet the governor of Georgia?" she asked herself then. "So, I didn't meet President Carter," she says sheepishly.

She's wondering now if her talent for underestimating presidential timber is about to reassert itself for the benefit of Mr. Tsongas.

Presidential pool:

Bill Clinton may not have carried Maryland, but he did all right in the bar owned by the family of state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski.

The Arkansas governor and his motorcade decided to drop in at the Canton bar after dining in Little Italy the night before the primary. He had charmed American Joe just by pronouncing his name right (Med-uh-SHEF-ski), but it was when he took a pool game from the local hotshot that he began to win over the crowd.

Here's how Mr. Miedusiewski told the story on the Senate floor: "When he came in, everyone was calling him Bill. When he won the pool game, it was Governor Clinton. After he drank a draft beer and ate a codfish cake, they were calling him Mr. President."

Malkus power:

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been omitted to protect the candid.

Senators wrestling with the budget, line by line, suddenly realized that they had cut funding earmarked for Motor Vehicles Administration services on the Eastern Shore.

Problem was, some of the same senators had voted on the floor for a bill guaranteeing those services, sponsored by the garrulous Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr., D-Dorchester.

"I have to vote for his bills," one of the senators said, almost apologetically. "Once I didn't, and he didn't talk to me for eight months. Which wasn't all bad; don't get me wrong."

"I hold the record," a second senator said proudly. "Once he didn't talk to me for three years."

Irish ire:

Is the senator from Prince George's County named Thomas P. O'Reilly, or Thomas P. O'Riled-Up?

Over the past week, the silver-haired attorney who chairs the Senate Finance Committee has seemed a little, well, high-strung.

First, he objected strenuously to a routine request to delay, by two days, the second reading of the Senate's off-track betting bill -- sorry, the satellite-simulcast betting bill -- that had come out of his committee with 12 amendments.

(Mr. O'Reilly's impassioned plea to speed the bill along seemed especially ironic, given that he had repeatedly delayed a far less controversial bill on purchasing energy- efficient state vehicles. Mr. O'Reilly said he needed to study the issue, but every time it returned, he confessed he still hadn't done his homework.)

When the OTB bill returned to the floor Friday, Mr. O'Reilly had apparently decided that the best way to defeat unfriendly amendments was to hit the high notes -- literally. As his voice wavered and cracked up and down the scales, he sang the praises of the Maryland racing industry.

"It's beautiful," he repeated, mantra-like. "It's beautiful."

Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, couldn't match Mr. O'Reilly in sheer shrillness, but his vehement opposition to the bill was just as loud.

The high-volume exchange finally led Sen. John A. Cade to comment: "When we talked about raising the level of debate on the floor, I didn't know we were talking about the decibels."

Crap shoot:

When it comes to gambling this session, almost anything goes in the House of Delegates.

Although a committee killed a bill that would have allowed riverboat casinos to ply the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the House felt more kindly toward another bill permitting an array of gambling in Frederick County.

House Bill 439 would allow casino nights, tip jars and punchboard gambling by civic, veterans, hospital and athletic groups in that county.

Some of these events puzzled Del. Leon G. Billings, D-Montgomery, who asked for definitions of tip jars and the like.

"Is this legalized numbers?" Mr. Billings asked last week.

"That's one way of looking at it," replied Del. John S. Arnick, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

The bill passed 98-20 Friday.

Didactic duo:

They might as well be called Ports-mer, those two delegates from Baltimore County who like to vote together, sponsor bills together and ruffle feathers in Annapolis together.

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