Cade's death leaves a void Who will become the General Assembly's new conscience?

November 24, 1996|By C. FRASER SMITH

JACK CADE and John Coolahan loved to lie in wait for the mayor of Baltimore when he came to Annapolis in search of state aid. William Donald Schaefer was a heralded star of urban development by then, but Senators Cade and Coolahan were determined to be unimpressed.

"When will God arrive?" one of them would ask for all to hear. Coolahan had his own little greeting - "Willie Don The Con," he called the man who always managed to leave Annapolis with big money for Baltimore. Sometimes Cade and Coolahan, joined by then-Sen. Julian L. Lapides of Baltimore, would send Schaefer scurrying from the room where the Senate Committee on Budget and Taxation held its hearings.

In his heart of hearts, Schaefer knew these men were doing their jobs as ferociously as he tried to do his - and often they supported the city's requests.

Cade in particular.

So last week, the former mayor and governor joined several hundred mourners at the funeral for this Anne Arundel senator, who died Nov. 14 while attending a conference of the Chesapeake Bay Commission in Ocean City.

Having suddenly lost him, the political world of Maryland came close to thinking of Cade as "irreplaceable." He would have rejected much of the praise he now receives as gruffly as he dismissed those who were unprepared for a day's work.

But his life offers a moment to reflect upon the ideal of public service as well as upon the very nearly ideal public servant. Parts of the American electorate have been preoccupied lately with imposing limits on time in office.

A democratic society might also consider how, given the difficulties and sacrifices, it occasionally gets a legislator as cranky and compassionate as Cade.

"He felt that each day in the legislature was an opportunity," said Howard A. Denis, a former senator from Montgomery County. "He didn't want to be a page-turner. He wanted to have an impact. He threw everything he had into it."

He pushed for a reforestation plan that required developers to plant more trees - and angrily denounced colleagues in the House of Delegates when the bill died there in its first incarnation. In a political body where such observations can go unspoken in the name of "effectiveness," Cade would deliver a passionate tirade.

He was a champion of aid to education, particularly in Baltimore, one of the reasons Schaefer held him in high regard.

He could vote for higher taxes - though it pained him once to the point of tears.

He demanded more funding for community colleges, persuading reluctant governor and a reluctant General Assembly to follow his lead.

He was a master parliamentarian, who used the Senate's rules to kill bad bills - "snakes," they are called in Annapolis, because they hide and slither into the statute books with evil intent. The assembly is built on the prerogatives of its committees and, if a bill gets to the floor, it is seldom killed or amended. Cade could do both and everyone knew it.

"He protected us from ourselves," said Del. Howard A. "Pete" Rawlings, Democrat of Baltimore, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Rawlings says he and others would sometimes needle Cade into leaving the crucial, end-of-session negotiations on the operating and capital construction budgets.

"When we were doing something that was more political than fiscally sound," Rawlings recalled, "Jack would walk out. He knew as a Republican he didn't have the votes to stop some of it and he didn't want to be around for the carnage." Even in his absence, though, the senator's well-known views were like a conscience.

In recent years, Rawlings has been acting like Cade, insisting that Baltimore City schools adopt important management reforms or lose state aid. Since legislators don't typically deny aid to their own constituents, Rawlings was taking uncommon political risks - something Cade recognized.

"He wrote me a personal letter, supporting me and offering to do whatever he could to help," Rawlings said.

"Here was a guy," says his friend Robert R. Neall, the former Anne Arundel County executive and House of Delegates member, "who could have both sides of an issue angry with him because he could see the big picture. But he could mediate tough situations and get everyone through it."

A sometimes brooding - and even bullying - presence in Annapolis, Cade became a prototypical member of the assembly. He was criticized by some members of his party who thought he was indulging too much in the trappings of office. He was too infrequently a real Republican, according to this view. But his influence in a Democratic-controlled legislature proved the contention that party means far less than talent and trust.

Here's where the recruitment dilemma comes in: Not every potential Cade can afford to serve at approximately $29,700 a year - particularly if the interests of one's employer are being acted upon by the assembly where you would have a vote.

The case of Neall, now a candidate to succeed his friend, is instructive.

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