Flanagan's Fling HOWARD COUNTY

June 16, 1993

There comes a time in every politician's life when an agonizing personal decision must be made: to remain in a secure and safe political post or to take the risk of running for higher elective office. In Del. Robert L. Flanagan's case, the choice was clear last September: he would not seek re-election to the House of Delegates from his west Columbia district but would run for state attorney general instead.

That's quite a leap. No Howard countian in recent decades has ascended to statewide office. But Mr. Flanagan's prior experience certainly prepares him for such a transition.

He has represented District 14B, which takes in a small part of Montgomery County and a big chunk of Howard (from Clarksville to Ellicott City and west Columbia), since 1987. It didn't take this Republican long to establish a reputation in Annapolis as one of the legislature's most inquisitive and incisive lawyers. Though a minority-party member in the Democratic House, he quickly became a mainstay on the House Judiciary Committee, often helping to craft complex bills. Since 1991, he has shifted his focus to budgetary matters on the key House Appropriations Committee.

During the recent furor over legalizing keno, Mr. Flanagan came out steadfastly against this expansion of gambling. His skilled examination of witnesses during a joint committee hearing on the subject punctured many of the myths being floated about keno by state lottery officials.

Instead of running for re-election to the legislature in a friendly Howard County district, the 47-year-old Mr. Flanagan now must campaign throughout Maryland. Just winning the Republican nomination will be uphill: he's facing former U.S. attorney Richard D. Bennett, a favorite of the state's party officials. In a straw poll of Republican Party officeholders, Mr. Bennett received 193 votes to Mr. Flanagan's 77.

Still, it's a winnable fight. Mr. Flanagan has received high marks from both environmental and business groups for his legislative diligence in Annapolis. He has built a strong base of popular support among Republicans and Democrats in Howard County. He is highly respected for his legal talents. And he has developed into a good campaigner. Regardless of the outcome next year, it looks like the county will be losing a diligent legislator in the General Assembly.

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