Lucille Maurer, the first woman to serve as Maryland's state treasurer, took a big step toward a third term in office yesterday when a joint House-Senate committee voted overwhelmingly to endorse her candidacy.
Mrs. Maurer, 72, a former delegate from Montgomery County, received 21 of the committee's 26 votes. Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Carroll County Democrat, received three votes, and former Del. John W. Douglass, a Baltimore Democrat, garnered two votes.
The nomination is scheduled to go before a joint session of the House of Delegates and state Senate Friday for a secret ballot. The 188 legislators can vote for anyone for the post, but the committee's endorsement makes Mrs. Maurer's reappointment a near certainty.
The vote that counted most came from House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat. Since the House and Senate votes are added together to determine a victor, the House's 141 members have the greatest say and Mr. Taylor had already publicly endorsed Mrs. Maurer.
Nevertheless, the nominating committee was put in the curious position yesterday of interviewing candidates in public. The treasurer's post had appeared in newspaper classified advertisements that said nothing about the politics involved.
The result was that the dozen applicants included a recent college graduate, a certified public accountant, a former bank vice president and several consultants. When the committee co-chairman, Sen. Clarence W. Blount, announced that applicants would have just seven minutes each, it appeared to dawn on most that this wasn't a typical job interview.
"No offense, but I'm a little concerned that you didn't have any questions for the current treasurer," Daniel White, 29, a management consultant from St. Mary's County, told the committee during his interview.
The treasurer is responsible for the management of state investments and represents the legislature as one of three members, along with the governor and the comptroller, of the state Board of Public Works. The board oversees all major state contracts. A critical 1993 legislative audit and concerns about Mrs. Maurer's health had cast some initial doubt on her reappointment. The legislative black caucus endorsed Delegate Douglass, and Republicans had shown some interest in backing Delegate Dixon.
Mrs. Maurer, who was first appointed treasurer in 1987, said she was thrilled with the endorsement. She said her health is good despite an operation three years ago that has made walking difficult.
"It's an overwhelming feeling to have the committee so solidly backing me," she said. "It's nice to go back to the Board of Public Works with such strong support."
Several of the other candidates handed out offers of help and business cards to Mrs. Maurer after the hearing.
Mr. White said he wasn't surprised by the outcome, but found the trip to Annapolis worthwhile anyway. "At least it didn't cost any money to visit," he said.