Dixon wants conservative successor Democrat is favored to replace Maurer as state treasurer

He'll reveal choice Monday

Legislator has backing of speaker, county delegation

January 05, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Del. Richard N. Dixon, the odds-on favorite to succeed retiring state Treasurer Lucille Maurer, intends to play a major role in choosing his Carroll County successor if he is selected for the $100,000-a-year state post.

"My recommendations are for a conservative Democrat," said Mr. Dixon, who plans to announce his choice at a Carroll County Democratic Club meeting Monday night.

"It should be clear to all Democrats in our county that former Sen. [Charles] Smelser and myself have been the only elected Democrats in this county in years," he said. "It's clear what kind of Democrat we need to fill this seat. I'm going to use all the influence I have to influence the outcome. As the only elected Democrat in the county, I have an obligation to do that."

Mr. Dixon, a stockbroker who is serving his fourth term in the House of Delegates, is the apparent front-runner to replace Mrs. Maurer, who resigned Wednesday, prompted by illness. The General Assembly is expected to elect her successor by the end of the month.

Mr. Dixon, who ran unsuccessfully for the post last year, has the support of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor, an important boost because of the large number of legislative votes the speaker can influence.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Westminster Republican who chairs the Carroll delegation, said he expected Mr. Dixon to have the support of the GOP in Annapolis. Those votes, along with the support of the Legislative Black Caucus, could easily win Mr. Dixon the post, he said.

"Our delegation is 100 percent behind him," Mr. Haines said. "I think he will have some opponents. There are other people who are interested in that position. I think it's a great asset to have Richard Dixon be the treasurer of Maryland. He's very qualified for the position."

Carroll Democratic leaders declined to speculate yesterday about possible candidates to succeed Mr. Dixon, a former school board member who was first elected to the House seat in 1982.

If Mr. Dixon wins the treasurer post, Carroll's Democratic State Central Committee will send a recommendation to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who will appoint someone to fill the remaining three years of the term.

"Certainly, it's premature to say the committee has anybody in mind," said Greg Pecoraro, a Democratic Central Committee member and Westminster City Council member. "The committee hasn't even considered the issue yet. We have to wait and see how events proceed."

Phil Miller, central committee chairman, said the group will advertise the vacancy in newspapers. Candidates will be interviewed, and a recommendation then will be made to the governor.

"Certainly, we're going to consider anyone who puts an application in or applies for the job," Mr. Miller said. "Nobody has officially come forward yet. We've had some inquiries, naturally."

Among those who plan to apply for the post is Ellen Leahy Willis, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Dixon in 1994.

"I wouldn't have run for the position if I still weren't interested in serving," said Ms. Willis, director of business training at Carroll Community College. "I certainly intend to apply for the position. I expect a number of people to. I expect it to be very competitive. It's a good opportunity."

Mr. Pecoraro, 36, economic development coordinator for the Maryland Port Authority and a longtime Democratic committee PTC member, said it was unlikely he would seek the post.

Another possible candidate, Lloyd R. Helt Jr., a Westminster lawyer and former Sykesville mayor, said he would be "interested in filling [Dixon's] shoes, but I don't think Dixon looks upon me as a conservative Democrat."

"It's his position. He won it. It will go to someone with Dixon's blessing," said Mr. Helt, who ran unsuccessfully for state delegate in 1986.

Mr. Pecoraro said Democrats would be seeking a moderate to conservative candidate, someone fiscally conservative and someone Carroll voters would be comfortable with "politically speaking."

"Whoever is appointed will clearly be of that persuasion -- careful of public money," Mr. Pecoraro said.

"Carroll countians have a strong interest in promoting public education, good transportation and those kinds of things. Richard's played an important role in those kinds of things. We want someone who will be effective in Annapolis and who will lead the party in the 1998 elections."

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