After Arnick case, laughter dies

THE POLITICAL GAME

February 24, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Concluding their testimony on a bill last Thursday, three men and a woman stood to leave the Senate Finance Committee room.

"Thank you, gentlemen," said Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly, the committee chairman.

A murmur ran through the crowded hearing room.

Mr. O'Reilly quickly apologized for failing to address the woman.

"There goes my judgeship," he said.

In Annapolis, the fate of former Del. John S. Arnick is on everyone's mind. Mr. Arnick's nomination as a District Court judge failed last week after allegations that he used sexist and vulgar terms when speaking to a lobbyist over dinner.

At the hearing, lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano deliberately refrained from laughing at Senator O'Reilly's quip.

"It's just too painful right now," said Mr. Bereano. Some say the furor over this failed nomination will fundamentally change the way the General Assembly does business.

Mr. Bereano didn't laugh for fear of offending Mr. Arnick's many friends. Others, afraid of crossing some unseen boundary, won't laugh at all.

Many legislators remain anguished by a situation that left them torn between political survival and loyalty to a friend who had played by accepted Assembly rules.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. of Prince George's County said the Assembly must learn to live in the world of electronic democracy.

"The public gets its news in the age of mass media by sound bite and by first paragraph," he said. If the voters conclude their representatives are even more arrogant than they thought, the result could be a more intense mood of anti-incumbency in the 1994 election. The push for term limits might also intensify.

Relationships between men and women may be strained.

Republican Del. Ron Franks of Queen Anne's County said: "The rules are still evolving. I don't know what the other sex wants."

Some women in the Assembly are planning "gender dinners," a kind of sensitivity training, to promote better understanding.

Because some male legislators are uncertain or fearful about dealing with women lobbyists, the women could lose clients. But is this missing the point? "It was not a matter of male vs. female," said Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Montgomery County Republican. "It was outsider vs. insider."

And while some of these changes would not appear to advance the cause of gender neutrality or fairness to women, one other potential development could. Male candidates for governor in 1994 may be more likely to choose women as their running mates for lieutenant governor.

But will the women candidates for governor consider men for their tickets?

Ms. Plevy goes to Washington

Daryl Plevy, trusted aide to William Donald Schaefer for 11 years -- five as mayor of Baltimore, six as governor of Maryland -- will leave March 5. She is likely to be the first of many Schaefer lieutenants leaving in the next few months as the governor finishes his second and last term.

She is moving on to the office of another Maryland public figure, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. Ms. Plevy will be Ms. Mikulski's chief legislative officer in Washington.

Telling the boss was the hardest part, she says.

"He started telling me all the things he likes about me and I started crying. I don't cry much," says Ms. Plevy, who is regarded as a tough champion of Mr. Schaefer's policies and programs.

A 38-year-old mother of two, Ms. Plevy has been the governor's liaison with labor, a legal adviser and director of special projects. She has worked on gun control, abortion, taxes, efficiency in government, privatization of government activities and welfare reform, among other things.

"Excited and scared" about her job on The Hill, she said it offers an opportunity to do something new in government while using what she knows: Maryland issues. Also, Ms. Mikulski and Mr. Schaefer have worked closely on legislative and political issues.

"I don't feel like I'm really leaving," she said.

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