1994 attorney general race is onIf they're struggling over...

THE POLITICAL GAME

December 23, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

1994 attorney general race is on

If they're struggling over which party luminaries have actually allowed their names to be printed on the candidate's fund-raising letterhead, you know a campaign has begun.

Such is the case in the very early and very intense sparring between two Republican contenders for attorney general of Maryland in 1994. With more than a year to go until the primary, U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett and Howard County Del. Robert L. Flanagan are already deeply into coffee-and-doughnut receptions, charges, countercharges and even issues.

The first tussle took place in Solomons during the GOP winter convention.

Mr. Flanagan opened. In a "Dear Fellow Republican" letter, circulated to all the convention delegates, he chided Mr. Bennett for opposing a move to pardon William Ellen. The Virginia engineer is now serving six months in federal prison for filling 86 acres of Maryland wetlands.

Mr. Flanagan favors a pardon and accuses Mr. Bennett of "losing track of the big picture."

"Maryland's next attorney general," he wrote, "could easily undermine the existing consensus in our state [favoring environmental protection] by showing excessive zeal in pursuing environmental prosecutions which chase jobs out of Maryland or subject normally law-abiding citizens to excessive punishment based upon less serious violations of very complex environmental laws."

Mr. Bennett then wrote Mr. Flanagan, reminding him that the wetlands offender had ignored warnings to stop what he was doing.

As for the prosecution of criminals, Mr. Bennett wrote, in capital letters: "I HAVE SPENT A TOTAL OF SIX YEARS AS A FEDERAL PROSECUTOR," putting various people behind bars and enduring threats over the telephone.

"YOU HAVE NEVER SPENT ONE DAY AS A PUBLIC PROSECUTOR AND YOU HAVE NEVER PLACED ANYBODY BEHIND BARS."

In closing, he wrote, "I hope you accept this letter in the spirit in which it is intended." The letter was circulated to all the convention delegates.

But this was only a preliminary: Mr. Flanagan had used the name of Robert R. Neall, the Anne Arundel County executive, on his letterhead.

Mr. Neall wrote Mr. Flanagan asking him to stop using his name "in any way in your quest to become attorney general." The letter was given to the delegates.

Mr. Flanagan apologized in writing and, of course, his note was duly circulated.

There was only one more thing.

Is Mr. Bennett a candidate or not? He has said as much, unofficially. Everyone in the GOP assumes he is running. And non- candidates don't usually have receptions. But Mr. Bennett was as tentative about his candidacy as he was vociferous in countering Mr. Flanagan's blast.

His hesitancy has to do with federal law barring government employees such as U.S. attorneys from involvement in politics.

In August, he says, he will return to the private practice of law and the public practice of politics. That announcement will be circulated. Kevin Igoe, personable and astute executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, is leaving his post after 2 1/2 years to be administrative assistant to freshman Rep. Jack Quinn of New York's 30th District.

Mr. Quinn's redrawn district includes part of Buffalo and some of the suburban communities to the south and east. This turf is approximately where Mr. Igoe, 42, grew up and where some of his family still lives.

Before his tour as day-to-day director of GOP affairs in Maryland, Mr. Igoe had worked in various capacities for the Reagan administration and before that in the office of former Representative, now Senator, Connie Mack of Florida.

Mr. Igoe says he thinks it is time to move on. "We've made pretty good progress under Joyce's leadership," he said, referring to party chairman, Joyce L. Terhes. "Fund-raising has come a long way, and the visibility of the party has improved a great deal."

No replacement has been chosen.

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