State Treasurer Lucille Maurer, one of three members of Maryland's powerful Board of Public Works, mailed letters to all members of the General Assembly last week asking for their support for her re-election.
The General Assembly picks the state treasurer, a position also responsible for the management and investment of state funds, state borrowing, the purchase of financial and insurance services, and the protection of state property.
Mrs. Maurer, 72, has held the $100,000-a-year job for two four-year terms. A former state delegate from Montgomery County, she was elected treasurer in 1987, two months after losing a bid to move into the state Senate.
She already has gained the important backing of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany Democrat, who told the House Democratic Caucus last week that he thought Mrs. Maurer "has done an excellent job." Because the treasurer is elected by a majority of the 188-member assembly, backing by the leader of the 141-member House has obvious numerical importance.
It is unclear how much competition she will have for the job.
In 1987 and again in 1991, the state advertised for applicants, who then were interviewed by a joint committee of delegates and senators. That panel recommended its selection to the full House and Senate.
Among those whose names have been mentioned as potential applicants this time include Baltimore Del. John W. Douglass, a veteran Appropriations Committee member who is retiring after six terms in the House; former Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Laurence Levitan of Montgomery County, who was defeated for re-election; Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Carroll County stockbroker; and retiring state Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Montgomery County Republican who gave up his seat in an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.
House and Senate leaders said they have not yet discussed whether they will follow the same procedures used in previous years, nor have they set a date in January for the election. The position has not been advertised, and no joint committee has been appointed.
"I know the incumbent and like her very much," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat. But, he added, "I would like to wait and see who is going to apply for the job before making a decision."
Four years ago, Mr. Miller slowed an attempt by some lawmakers to quickly re-elect Mrs. Maurer without considering other applicants.
The subsequent advertisement elicited 23 responses, including one from a McDonald's cashier who had recently graduated from high school and another from a Davidsonville man who, at the time, was in a Hagerstown prison serving a 12-year sentence for tax evasion.
But other applicants had more serious credentials, including senior bank executives, accountants and a former treasurer of Maine.
While the treasurer's varied responsibilities for investments, borrowing and insurance are important activities, it is the seat on the Board of Public Works that makes the job particularly influential.
The board votes on virtually all major contracts for goods and services, is the final arbiter for permits involving wetlands, is the body that authorizes state borrowing, and is the de facto court of appeal for lawmakers and residents alike who want more money for schools or other state facilities or projects.
Eight years ago, incoming Gov. William Donald Schaefer got in trouble with legislative leaders by trying to push his own candidate, Baltimore business executive Walter Sondheim. Angered that the governor would try to control two of the three seats on the board (the third seat goes to the comptroller, who is elected statewide), the legislature chose Mrs. Maurer instead.
The lesson has not been lost on Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening, who through a spokesman said he understands the treasurer is selected by the legislature and does not intend to intrude in that process.
In seeking re-election, Mrs. Maurer is touting her successes in computerizing and otherwise modernizing operations in the treasurer's office.
She claims credit for saving the state $18 million by an advanced refunding of high interest rate bonds, and cites her role in the decision to sell stocks before the 1987 stock market crash that earned the state pension systems more than $1 billion. As treasurer, she is vice chair of the state pension system board of trustees.
Mrs. Maurer is well-liked by veteran lawmakers, who are reluctant to criticize her publicly. But some quietly complain she has too often sided with Governor Schaefer, and suggest a younger, more vigorous treasurer might better represent the legislature's interests on the board.
In 1992, Mrs. Maurer underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor pressing on her brain, but was back at work in seven weeks. The only visible reminder is a brace she wears on her leg, which she says affects her walk, but not her work. She says her health is fine.