Friend of bay is leaving Senate successor sought Environmentalists will miss Winegrad

May 04, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A leading advocate for the Chesapeake Bay has announced that he will not seek re-election to the Maryland Senate, leaving environmental groups searching for someone to fill Gerald W. Winegrad's shoes.

"My present plans are not to seek re-election in 1994," Mr. Winegrad said last night. "I don't plan to run again."

He stressed he is not resigning and will continue to represent his Annapolis district until January 1995.

He said he has a full plate of legislative issues to address next year during his last General Assembly session. Among them, he said, are agricultural runoff and recycling.

"It will be a tremendous loss," said Jane Nishida, Maryland executive director for the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "The environment has certainly lost its greatest advocate in the Senate, if not the General Assembly."

Mr. Winegrad, who, as a 25-year-old attorney for the National Wildlife Federation helped organize the first Earth Day in 1970, was elected to the General Assembly 15 years ago.

After his first term in the House of Delegates, when he and his cause were often dismissed as unsubstantial, Mr. Winegrad was approached by environmental groups to run for the state Senate.

With the help of the newly formed Maryland League of Conservation Voters, he won the seat representing Annapolis and southern Anne Arundel County.

A man described as "brusque" and "abrasive" by even his allies, Mr. Winegrad became much more effective in the Senate, helping win passage of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law and protections for nontidal wetlands. He said he is most proud of bills he sponsored that ban phosphates in the bay and establish a fund to protect wildlife.

"It will be extremely hard to find someone more knowledgeable and passionate about the environment," Ms. Nishida said.

"More than anything else you were impressed by his ability to understand and articulate the issues."

On the brighter side, the departure will allow other environmental advocates in the legislature to emerge from his shadow, said John Kabler, who is a past director of the Maryland Clean Water Action Project.

"It was not healthy to have one person way out ahead year after year," said Mr. Kabler, noting that Mr. Winegrad's initiatives, though they passed the Senate, often ran into opposition in the House where he was unpopular with many.

Chairman of the environmental matters subcommittee, Mr. Winegrad told colleagues he was weary of legislative politics.

A lawyer who teaches graduate school classes in environmental policy at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, he said he has been recommended for a "high-ranking" job in the Clinton administration, either in the White House, Environmental Protection Agency or Interior Department.

"I'm just a little worn out," Mr. Winegrad, 48, said. "It's time to do something else with my life."

Anne Arundel County Council member Virginia Clagett, who has championed agricultural preservation and controls on rubble landfills, announced her intention Friday to run for the seat and carry on Mr. Winegrad's environmental tradition.

Because of a two-term limit passed by voters last fall, Ms. Clagett, serving her fifth term on the council, cannot run again for that post.

Three-term Del. John C. Astle of Annapolis said yesterday that he will run if Senator Winegrad does not. A moderate Democrat, Delegate Astle said other lawmakers will step up to fill the senator's shoes:

"It may not come from our district, but I don't think the issue will go without a champion in the Senate."

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