After eight years in political exile, former Gov. Harry R. Hughes today is expected to return to prominence in Maryland politics as the newly elected chairman of the state Democratic Party.
He is the pick of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Parris N. Glendening to chair the party, the Glendening camp confirmed last night.
The party's executive committee is scheduled to meet tonight in Annapolis to vote on a successor to the departing chairman, Baltimore Councilwoman Vera P. Hall.
"I can confirm [it is Mr. Hughes]," said David Seldin, Mr. Glendening's press spokesman. "It's a sure thing."
Picking the party chairman, Mr. Seldin said, "is considered traditionally the prerogative of the gubernatorial nominee," and he said Mr. Glendening has been lining up votes for Mr. Hughes, who was governor from 1979 until 1987.
"Governor Hughes is someone who is respected statewide and who exhibited the kind of mainstream leadership that Parris hopes to show as governor," Mr. Seldin said.
The selection of Mr. Hughes raises to prominence a political figure who was pushed off stage during the eight-year administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Mr. Schaefer is no fan of either Mr. Glendening or his Republican opponent, Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, and during his years as Baltimore's mayor he often feuded with Mr. Hughes as well.
But Mr. Hughes was an early and vocal supporter of Mr. Glendening's candidacy, and appeared side-by-side with the Prince George's County executive as he declared victory earlier this month in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Mr. Hughes could not be reached last night for comment.
Some party insiders had expected former 8th District Congressman Michael Barnes to be elevated from party vice chairman to chairman.
But the Glendening camp apparently was interested in tapping someone from Baltimore, and it was concerned that Mr. Barnes might be diverted to Haiti in the next few weeks, just as the general election campaign heats up. Mr. Barnes is an adviser to the soon-to-be-restored Haitian president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Mr. Seldin confirmed that Mr. Glendening also has picked state Del. Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore as vice chairwoman, and state Del. Nancy K. Kopp of Montgomery County as secretary.
Ms. Kopp, a House member since 1975, endorsed Mr. Glendening early in the primary campaign. She said Mr. Barnes had been troubled in recent weeks about the demands on his time should he become chairman.
Ms. McIntosh is a former aide to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and an ally of Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.
Mary Jo Neville, a member of the party Central Committee, said that the executive committee could select someone else but that the party nominee has always been permitted to pick the chairman in the past.