Glendening seeks change in power configuration


January 11, 1995|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

In the early years of his first term, William Donald Schaefer was having trouble dealing with the legislature until an old friend, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, offered advice drawn from his experience.

"You can fight the speaker. Or, you can fight the [Senate] president," Mr. Mandel told the governor, according to one of Mr. Schaefer's longtime aides. "But you can't fight the speaker and the president." In the triangle of power of State House politics, the lesson was painfully simple: two beats one almost every time.

Because Mr. Schaefer and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. never got along very well, the governor usually cozied up to the House speaker, first to R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. and later to his successor, Casper R. Taylor Jr.

Now, Parris N. Glendening is coming to town to replace Mr. Schaefer and the equation of power is once again in flux.

Last summer, political prognosticators were saying that if Mr. Glendening won the election, he, too, would be in for a hard time dealing with the sometimes cantankerous Mr. Miller. The two Prince George's County Democrats have feuded for years.

Asked in 1993 about Mr. Glendening's pending campaign for governor, Mr. Miller said, "We need an honest governor, which rules out Parris." Truthfulness, the outspoken Senate president has often said, has never been one of Mr. Glendening's leading attributes.

The two men often fought over legislative initiatives in Annapolis, including Mr. Miller's repeated attempts to prohibit Prince George's County developers from donating funds to Mr. Glendening's campaigns.

Mild-mannered Mr. Glendening simply dismissed such attacks as typical Miller rhetoric, explaining that the senator could not accept that his style of back-room politics was a thing of the past in Prince George's County.

Now that sort of rancorous exchange appears to be a thing of the past. At least for now. To hear Mr. Miller and Mr. Glendening speak about each other these days, it seems as if they are the closest of pals.

"We are probably working as cooperatively and as professionally as anyone has seen in recent years for a governor and the legislative leadership," Mr. Glendening last week of his relations with both Mr. Miller and Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Miller, in turn, acknowledged that his relationship with Mr. Glendening has changed.

"Since August, Parris and I have worked closely together," Mr. Miller told county officials at a conference in Hunt Valley last week. But he quickly added: "I won't go back any farther than that."

Mr. Miller said the transformation of their relationship began over a dinner last August at an Annapolis restaurant at which "we talked about why we needed to work together."

"It's been very, very pleasant these past five months working with Parris and the whole transition," Mr. Miller gushed.

Their rapprochement has fueled speculation that the balance of power could be shifting away from the alliance of the governor and the speaker and toward an alliance of the governor and the Senate president.

While both Mr. Glendening and Speaker Taylor say they, too, have a good working relationship, Mr. Taylor has already surged ahead of Mr. Glendening on a couple of issues. The speaker, who also has to worry about the Republican caucus in his own House, has already proposed, for example, that the legislature consider granting a tax cut this year. Mr. Glendening has advocated setting money aside for a tax cut three or four years from now.

Mr. Taylor also has put his name on a welfare reform bill and a whole package of reforms of state lobbying practices, all before Mr. Glendening has even been sworn into office. The speaker, said one longtime legislative staffer, "is outgoverning the governor."

Some attribute it to Mr. Taylor's not-so-secret ambition to be governor himself one day.

Mr. Taylor chuckles at such speculation, and says his relationship with the incoming governor has been great.

As for the sudden warming between Mr. Glendening and Senator Miller, Mr. Taylor said that is great, too. He said he sees nothing wrong with the mathematics of Annapolis power becoming 3 to 0.

"If, in fact, they're going to develop a positive relationship, that's great," Mr. Taylor said. "I hope they do. Nothing would please me more as speaker of the House than to see all three of us enjoying positive relationships with one another."

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