GOP starts effort to draft Neall to replace Sen. Cade Former Arundel chief seen as best candidate

November 17, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Still grieving after the loss of a local political legend last week, Anne Arundel Republicans have begun a quiet, determined effort to draft another one to take Sen. John A. Cade's place:

Robert R. Neall.

Neall, the former wunderkind Republican leader of the House of Delegates and one-term county executive, may be the only Anne Arundel politician with the bipartisan influence and political cachet of Cade, who died Thursday of an apparent heart attack.

About as many local Republicans attach the title "mentor" to Neall, first elected to the House at 26, as they do to Cade -- the only senator to represent the 33rd District.

With 30 days to appoint Cade's successor, local Republicans have begun to view Neall as perhaps the only potential candidate with the State House experience, fiscal expertise, and political skill to avoid disappearing into Cade's deep footprints. As former House minority leader, Neall could walk into Cade's assignment on the Budget and Taxation Committee -- and even his role as Republican leader, observers say.

"Bobby Neall is certainly a leader in the Republican Party in District 33 and throughout the county," said Helen Fister, chairwoman of the county's Republican Central Committee, which must forward a nominee to the governor by mid-December. "He has been my friend and mentor for the 30 years I have been here. Right now, though, I know he is grieving the loss of a very dear, longtime friend."

The appointee to Cade's seat will serve the last two years of his term and carry into the 1998 election the imprimatur of incumbency. As a result, the 13-member central committee likely will look to candidates who will run again, not just serve as caretakers.

Fister said committee members probably will meet this week. She said the committee will accept applications from 33rd District residents for 10 days before culling the field.

"Certainly, Republicans around the county will have strong input," Fister said. "I think I heard from all of them[Thursday]."

Neall, 48, lives with his family in Davidsonville, which is in the Republican-majority 33rd District. He voluntarily left the county executive's office in 1994 with broad respect among colleagues and voters. Three years ago, he seemed to be the party's natural choice for governor, but he retired to the private sector instead.

Since then he has maintained close, professional relationships with many legislators, including leaders from both parties, as a prominent Annapolis lobbyist representing business interests.

Just one problem remains: He may have no interest in the Senate job.

Neall, a close friend of Cade's, did not return a phone call Friday. His son, Rob, said the Senate seat "is the last thing my father is thinking about right now" with Cade's wake scheduled for this evening.

Rob Neall said his father's phone had been ringing steadily, with callers often encouraging him to seek the Senate seat.

"I know a number of people have called Bobby about this, but I think that's a decision Bobby Neall is going to have to make for himself," said County Councilman William C. Mulford II, an Annapolis Republican. "Bobby will have to analyze the financial and political implications of doing this. It's not just a two-year commitment. He'd have to be willing to run again."

Said former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Holt, whose campaign Neall volunteered for in 1972: "He's one of the sharpest guys on budget matters I know. But once you escape from politics, it's sometimes difficult to be lured back in."

In the past two years, Neall has built a thriving lobbying and consulting practice on Conduit Street in Annapolis, a lucrative living he would have to give up if he returned to the legislature. A state senator's salary is $29,700 a year -- less than half of what the Maryland Chamber of Commerce paid Neall this year for five months of work, according to lobbyist disclosure reports.

"Obviously with his years of experience he would be a prime, excellent candidate," said Diane R. Evans, the Arnold Republican who chairs the County Council. "But it's a personal choice."

Neall certainly would be the marquis name in a field of potential contenders that includes Dels. Robert C. Baldwin of Crownsville and Janet Greenip of Crofton; former County Councilman David G. Boschert; and former Del. Elizabeth S. Smith-Anderson, who retired in 1994.

Other possible candidates include Robert P. Duckworth, clerk of the county Circuit Court; former court clerk Mary Rose; and, County Councilman John J. Klocko, a respected first-term Republican from Crofton.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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