Leslie Hutchinson's 'big price'

June 02, 1994

Leslie Hutchinson wasn't kidding when she summed up her crumbled career with the words, "I paid a big price." The Essex delegate comes from a family known for political savvy and organizational clout. First elected to Maryland's House of Delegates in 1990 when she was 29, she was considered a good bet to add to the growing influence of women on politics.

But her opportunity has passed -- for now anyway. Ms. Hutchinson herself acknowledges this and has now announced that she won't seek re-election in 1994.

In a recent interview with staff writer C. Fraser Smith, she sounded contrite for her past missteps, such as driving with an invalid license and without car insurance (which earned her a $1,500 fine and a suspended jail term), failing to appear in court for her infractions and filing tardy campaign finance reports. Veteran Leslie-watchers, though, would suggest that her contrition must be viewed skeptically, for she continues to blame her downfall on forces outside herself -- the responsibility of having to live up to the Hutchinson heritage, a deadbeat ex-husband, lost mail, the pressure of maintaining the profile of a hot-shot legislator, etc.

Then too, it's hard to forget that Ms. Hutchinson penned a public mea culpa last December, only to turn around weeks later and attempt to get her two convictions downgraded to rulings of probation before judgment. Her explanation at the time? She said she feared that having the convictions on her record meant she could go to jail if she were to get one more parking ticket. Unfortunately, that same avoidance of personal responsibility is all too apparent in her latest remarks.

Perhaps the burden of being a young politician named Hutchinson in Essex outweighs the advantages of the legacy, at least in Leslie Hutchinson's case. By choosing to give up her office and devote herself to completing her education, raising her young son and generally getting her life in order, Ms. Hutchinson has made a wise decision that breaks a long streak of bad personal choices on her part.

And who can say whether her political career is really dead? Other Eastside pols -- Dale Anderson and John Arnick, to name two notable examples -- have been resurrected after humiliating setbacks. Heaven knows we're not trying to encourage a Leslie Hutchinson comeback. But as young as she is and given the forgiving nature of many voters, we wouldn't be surprised if it were to happen someday. The journey back won't be finished, however, until she shows that she understands that paying the price for her mistakes means taking full responsibility for them.

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