WHISPERS FROM the south have turned into a low roar over the 5th District congressional seat held by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the eight-term Democrat from Prince George's County.
It's starting to sound as if a GOP primary is likely March 5.
Del. John S. Morgan, a second-term Republican legislator from Prince George's, already has announced his candidacy and has been working steadily for nearly a year to cultivate grass-roots support and line up party officials behind him.
But Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., son of the former congressman and county executive, is weighing a bid of his own. And he is making sure that Republican Party activists, elected officials and past supporters know of his interest.
In recent weeks, Mr. Hogan sent a letter to them saying not to count him out. He has made queries on Capitol Hill about support and with the National Republican Congressional Committee about money. He also is considering whether to commission a poll in the district.
"It's a tough personal decision, and I do not take it lightly," Mr. Hogan said last week. "I don't want to get in the race unless I can truly believe we could win and retire Steny Hoyer from the Congress."
Of Mr. Hoyer's challengers over the years, Mr. Hogan in 1992 came closest to taking him out. The Republican could decide to sit this one out and wait for 1998 to see if Mr. Hoyer decides not to run -- a possibility considered real should the GOP retain control of Congress.
In a meeting scheduled for today, Mr. Morgan is hoping to persuade Mr. Hogan to keep selling real estate full time and give up ideas of running.
"We've been trying to weaken his thoughts a little bit," said Mr. Morgan, a physicist from Laurel. "My own impression is that he will decide this isn't the right year for him."
The problem with that, from Mr. Hogan's standpoint, is that he's not so sure Mr. Morgan can defeat Mr. Hoyer, who until November 1994 was the fourth highest-ranking member of the House and still considered a formidable incumbent.
"I don't want to have a primary race that's going to hurt us, but I want to make sure we win the general election," Mr. Hogan said.
Mr. Morgan believes he can persuade Mr. Hogan not to jump into the race.
"I think he'll wait for a time when it's a better time for him to run," Mr. Morgan said.
We'll see soon enough. The filing deadline is Dec. 26.
Senate President Miller seeks stocking stuffers
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is among a handful of legislators who are ringing in the holiday season with a presession fund-raiser.
The Prince George's Democrat is having a $250-a-head gala at Baltimore's Harbor Court Hotel on Thursday -- just before the start of the legislative session next month, when the General Assembly's self-imposed 90-day ban on fund raising will kick in.
As many as 1,000 people are expected at the event, which could bring in as much as $250,000 for what Mr. Miller says will be his one big fund-raiser during the 1994-1998 election cycle.
It certainly puts to rest the persistent rumors that Mr. Miller would not seek re-election in 1998 to what would be his sixth term, and his fourth as the Senate's presiding officer.
A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of goodwill to spread around in the next three years to shore up his support in the Senate.
"I do intend to run for re-election," Mr. Miller said yesterday. "The only reason we moved the timing of this up from the third year of the four-year cycle to this year is to tell my friends and colleagues I appreciate their support, that I'm not going to ask for any more in this cycle -- and that I am running for re-election."