Leslie Hutchinson's Next Step

September 17, 1993

What's next for Leslie E. Hutchinson, the Baltimore County delegate convicted of driving with a suspended license and without insurance?

Flagrant scofflaw though she is, she's unlikely to be forced from office. Her colleagues in the Maryland House of Delegates can unseat the 31-year-old Essex Democrat by a two-thirds vote, but Ms. Hutchinson's automobile violations, failures to appear in court, unpaid bills, tardy campaign finance reports and other unethical hi-jinks probably aren't severe enough in the eyes of other delegates to justify such an extraordinary move.

Nor is the decision against her as grave as, say, the convictions for theft and misconduct in office that automatically expelled Baltimore Del. Nathaniel Oaks in 1989. Ms. Hutchinson's wrong-doing has more to do with poor personal judgment.

Barring a public uproar so huge that the House would have no choice but to take action against her -- again, an improbable event -- Leslie Hutchinson's immediate future is in the hands of one person. And that person is Leslie Hutchinson.

State officials and newspapers have received calls and letters from voters wondering how a woman who can't get a grip on her personal life can be expected to serve capably as their elected representative. House leaders and other members of the county delegation say they're disgusted and embarrassed by Ms. Hutchinson's behavior. As they're quick to point out, politicians have a bad enough reputation; the Hutchinson mess does nothing to help that image.

Ms. Hutchinson isn't up for re-election until November 1994. So her constituents will have to endure another year of representation by a delegate who has proved herself to be unworthy of their confidence. Unless, of course, she decides to resign.

After her trial in Essex District Court, when she admitted to her mistakes and apologized for them, the delegate publicly showed humility and common sense for the first time since this controversy surfaced two months ago. She would do well to cultivate those qualities, and to consider whether she is the sort of person suited for public office.

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