Neall to seek Senate seat Former executive is instant favorite to succeed Cade

November 20, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Robert R. Neall will seek appointment to the late Sen. John A. Cade's vacant seat, virtually assuring that the former Anne Arundel County executive and Republican star will return to elected office after a two-year hiatus.

Neall, 48, said yesterday that scores of phone calls from supporters and former State House colleagues persuaded him to seek the 33rd District Senate seat left vacant by Cade's death last week. County Executive John G. Gary has also quietly but aggressively lobbied members of the county's Republican Central Committee on his predecessor's behalf.

A prominent and financially successful lobbyist, Neall would have to slash his Annapolis consulting practice in half to assume the $29,700-a-year post. But he said personal and political factors are pulling him to follow Cade, elected to the seat in 1975 and the only senator ever to represent the Republican-majority district. Neall served as a pallbearer at Cade's funeral on Monday.

"Part of it was the overwhelming personal contact from people who thought that I would be suitable," said Neall, who describes Cade as the teacher behind his vaunted fiscal expertise. "You'll never know how close I was to Jack. At least part of this is personal. It would be a high honor to be given the opportunity to continue his work."

The Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee will meet soon, probably early next week, to begin deciding who will follow in Cade's large footsteps. The 13-member panel has until mid-December to send its nomination to the governor, who is required by law to approve the choice.

While other candidates are expected to apply for the vacant seat, Neall has the political cachet, State House experience, and personal connections to be considered a runaway favorite for the job.

Elected to the House of Delegates at age 26, Neall rose to the post of Republican leader and later served one term as Anne Arundel's county executive before leaving office for the private sector in 1994. He would almost certainly fill Cade's slot on the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee, possibly even his role as Republican leader.

"In basketball recruiting you talk about blue-chip prospects," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, who makes the committee assignments. "Anytime you have someone of Bob Neall's talent he would be considered a blue chipper, and you would want to make maximum use of him. That would be on a fiscal committee."

Said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the committee: "He comes with a lot of background. It's much harder to bring someone new on. From this chairman's point of view, Bobby Neall would make a good addition. No one can replace Jack. But he has a knowledge base that would be helpful."

Cade's death brought not only grief to county leaders but also deep concerns that Anne Arundel would lose substantial clout on financial matters. Despite his Republican party affiliation in a Democrat-controlled chamber, Cade was chairman of two key budget subcommittees and had a seat on the conference committee with final say on funding for capital projects.

Local Republicans realized quickly that Neall, who lives in Davidsonville within District 33, would likely be the only candidate with the knowledge and experience to assume Cade's seat with a stellar reputation already in place.

Other contenders for the seat may include first-term District 33 Dels. Robert C. Baldwin and Janet Greenip, former Councilman David G. Boschert who changed from Democrat to Republican last year, and former Del. Elizabeth S. Smith-Anderson, who retired in 1994.

But Gary, who considers Neall one of his closest friends, has been calling members of the Central Committee personally to advocate Neall's candidacy. One Central Committee member said Gary has been firmly outlining Neall's merits while leaving no doubt that he is the administration's candidate of choice.

"The selection to fill that seat is a Central Committee decision," Gary said yesterday. "It is interesting and nice to hear that Mr. Neall is considering it. But it is a Central Committee decision."

Neall said he has done some polling of his own -- asking his wife, Margaret, and their four children whether he should step back into politics.

For one, Neall would be sacrificing some financial stability by accepting appointment to the Senate. According to lobbyist disclosure reports, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce paid Neall $60,000 for five months of work earlier this year.

"There are a lot of loose ends still to be worked out, like how I'm going to make a living and small things like that," said Neall, who indicated that he would be "looking at some of the state's largest organizations" for work. "There's going to be a period of major readjustment."

Regarding his family, he added: "We kicked it around some, but they are troupers. My kids weren't entirely in favor of me leaving politics in the first place. It was more a dad's judgment based on financial concerns."

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