General Assembly: A Dose of Energy

September 25, 1994

The Sept. 13 primary election reinforced the notion that the next session of the Maryland legislature will consist of younger, more energetic lawmakers. Fifty-four of the 188 incumbents had already decided to retire or move on. The number of departures expanded on Sept. 13.

Sen. Patricia Sher of Montgomery County, age 63, lost to freshman Del. Chris Van Hollen, age 35. Sen. Thomas M. Yeager of Howard County, age 57, lost to Del. Virginia Thomas, age 53. (She now faces freshman Del. Marty Madden, age 45, in November.) Sen. Nancy Murphy of Baltimore County, age 66, lost to former Howard County legislator Ed Kasemeyer, age 49.

In each case, the winning candidate had a higher energy level and a more vocal approach. Voters were sending a message. They want fresh voices and new slants on issues.

Baltimore County lost some veteran lawmakers, such as Senator Murphy and Dels. Richard Rynd, Ted Levin and Louis Morsberger. But it should benefit from new faces added from shared districts, such as Mr. Kasemeyer and Delores Kelley (if they survive the November election). The likely return of Dels. Ken Master and Tom Dewberry gives the county much-needed leverage.

The biggest turnover took place in Montgomery County, where five of seven senators will be new. While the county loses leadership clout (especially if Sen. Laurence Levitan is defeated by Del. Jean Roesser in the general election), some capable individuals are stepping up to the Senate -- Dels. Van Hollen, Brian Frosh and Gene Counihan.

Perhaps the jurisdiction that profited most from the primary was Baltimore City, where legislative changes of any magnitude were slight. The city returns to the Senate (barring phenomenal upsets in November) four incumbents in line for leadership posts -- Barbara Hoffman, Clarence Blount, Larry Young and John Pica. The city's total number of legislators may be shrinking, but its influence seems to be on the rise.

More turnovers are likely in the general election. Of special attention will be the Baltimore County match-up between incumbent Sen. Tom Bromwell and Republican Del. John Bishop; the Levitan-Roesser race in Montgomery and incumbent Democrat Mike Wagner versus Councilman Ed Middlebrooks in northern Anne Arundel County and Democratic Sen. Habern Freeman against Del. David Craig in Harford County.

Maryland's General Assembly could use a good shake-up. Too many members had been in the legislature too long and had become fixed in their ways. The public is rightly demanding that legislators start fixing problems rather than getting bogged down in process. That will be the mandate for the 1995 General Assembly.

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