Inviting trouble on way to Chicago Glendening, Taylor, Miller squabble over Democrats' party list

August 08, 1996|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

There they go again.

The three top elected officials of Maryland state government are squabbling anew -- this time over whether two of them were properly invited to the Democratic National Convention later this month in Chicago.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. say Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the party's highest-ranking elected official, convention delegation chairman and titular head of the party in Maryland, did not invite them to be part of the 100-member delegation.

Not so, says John W. Frece, the governor's communications director.

As in many political disagreements, who did what, if anything, to whom and why might be difficult to learn with certainty. The opposing sides are sticking to their stories.

According to Frece, before the governor left on vacation, "he was certain that invitations had been extended to the speaker and the Senate president, and he was under the impression they had declined."

Miller and Taylor insist the invitations never arrived.

"It's all right," the Senate leader said. "The governor, through the secretary of state [John T. Willis], had to take care of certain people, and the list wasn't long enough to reach down to me."

Said Taylor: "I think it's reflective of disrespect for the presiding officers. I guess it's Democratic unity in Annapolis."

Rich Parsons, the party's executive director, says no snub was intended. Quite the contrary. When the deadline for responding arrived, according to Parsons, each man was called "multiple times."

Miller and Taylor said they received no calls.

Democratic sources speculate that the trouble may have started when the governor decided that he did not relish the prospect of defending himself from Taylor's increasingly sharp criticisms while trying to project himself in Chicago. And, having decided not to invite Taylor, it seemed awkward to invite Miller.

Taylor is being urged by some in the party and by some business interests to oppose Glendening's re-election bid in a 1998 Democratic primary.

A strident opponent of Glendening for years in their home base of Prince George's County, Miller has been more temperate recently. And with the recent hiring of Miller's son, Thomas V. Miller III, to a post on the state Parole Board, the relationship had shown some promise of a further thaw.

For his part, Glendening has a history of assuming exclusive rights to center stage at state functions. Most recently, he did not ask former Gov. William Donald Schaefer to join him at groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Ravens football stadium.

And when he announced that the Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore, Glendening did not invite the presiding officers to attend until the day of the event.

The party's vice chairwoman, Mary Jo Neville, says packets of convention information and a questionaire required of all delegates were mailed to both Taylor and Miller, but neither returned them. In Taylor's case, she said, another member of the House of Delegates inquired about the invitation procedure on the speaker's behalf -- but then the speaker did not apply.

Neville says she was told that Miller was called several times by Willis, but the secretary of state did not get through to the senator. Willis was not available for comment last night.

Miller conceded yesterday that he had not appealed to the party or the governor, and volunteered that he could have secured himself a place in the delegation if he had run in last spring's election. He made clear, though, that as Senate president he had expected an invitation. "These things happen," he said. "You try to rise above things like this. You brush it off like dirt off your coat."

Taylor said, "It's not something I'm sitting around crying about."

He said he had never been to a national party convention -- but, he added, this is the first convention since he became speaker in 1994.

The Maryland convention lineup includes almost all the expected names: members of Maryland's delegation in Congress, state party officials, labor leaders, a few Maryland bigwigs designated by the White House, and a smattering of lower-ranking state senators and delegates.

But no speaker and no Senate president.

Parsons said both men could still make the trip, but not as voting delegates.

"The governor would welcome them," Frece added. "They are leading Democrats in the state, and if they would like to go, he hopes the party will do whatever it takes to get them there."

This time, maybe, everybody should forget the phone and the mails and try hand-delivery.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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