A little help from a friend

The Political Game

Appointments: In naming a delegate and a state senator's son to Prince George's County District Court, Gov. Parris N. Glendening displays political logic.

October 23, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

GOV. PARRIS N. Glendening managed to take care of two friendly legislators last week as he named Del. Richard A. Palumbo and the son of Sen. Leo E. Green Sr. to the Prince George's County District Court.

In a press release, the governor praised both men as "highly qualified" and predicted both would serve with "distinction and honor."

But there's also a political logic to the appointments.

Palumbo, 63, is a veteran Democratic delegate who has served in the General Assembly since 1979 without holding a high leadership position. He made a brief detour to the Senate in the 1980s but quickly returned to the House, where he has been a loyal foot soldier with a generally moderate record.

As a white lawmaker from northern Prince George's, Palumbo is a bit of an endangered species. There are three white-represented state Senate districts (each has three delegates) in the north county. After redistricting, at least one and perhaps two of them will have an African-American majority. It's safe to predict that some white incumbents will not be going back to Annapolis for the 2003 legislative session.

So, with the help of the governor, Palumbo is getting out while the getting is good. And retiring as a judge brings better pension benefits than retiring as a legislator.

Judicial appointments are subject to Senate confirmation, but as a veteran legislator, Palumbo is unlikely to face too many embarrassing questions about his record of wetlands violations. In 1988 and 1992, Palumbo was cited by state regulators for illegally building a road through undeveloped land in Charles County without a permit.

"That does not have an impact on his legal qualifications," said Glendening press secretary Michelle Byrnie.

Leo E. Green Jr., 42, has been a Bowie city councilman since 1996 and served as mayor pro tem from 1998 to 2000. Like Palumbo, he's a lawyer in private practice.

Green's appointment continues a Glendening tradition of giving jobs to the offspring of Democratic Senate allies. Sons of Sens. Norman R. Stone Jr. and Walter M. Baker received judicial appointments. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's son and namesake sits on the Parole Commission.

The senior Green has been one of the governor's more consistent supporters in the Senate. After publicly agonizing, Green provided a key vote this year that allowed Glendening's bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to escape the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and win eventual passage.

Byrnie said both appointees came highly recommended by the county's judicial nominations panel and bar association.

Riddick makes campaign for executive official

Major F. Riddick Jr., who served as the governor's chief of staff for more than six years, formally launched his own political career last week as he announced his candidacy for Prince George's County executive.

Riddick, 51, became the first of what are expected to be many Democrats to seek the office held for two terms by Wayne K. Curry. So far, there are no known Republican candidates in the Democratic-dominated county.

The 2002 race will be Riddick's first venture into elective politics, but he has long been known as a behind-the-scenes operator. He was a top aide to Glendening when the governor was Prince George's County executive and served in several important posts after joining the county government as a budget analyst in 1978.

As the governor's chief of staff, Riddick preferred to remain in the background but was widely feared as Glendening's enforcer.

Riddick left the post as chief of staff in May, saying he and Glendening had decided his well-known political ambitions could raise questions about possible conflict of interest. Riddick left the state payroll a week ago when he resigned as chief technology officer.

Glendening to speak at gay rights event

Adding to his reputation as a supporter of gay rights, Glendening will serve as keynote speaker Thursday at the annual dinner of a group that opposes the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality in the military.

Glendening will be the highest-ranking public official to speak at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's annual "End the Witch Hunts" dinner, said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the group.

Ralls said the governor is expected to speak about the troubles his brother, Bruce, faced as a gay man serving in the Air Force for 19 years. Bruce Glendening died of AIDS in 1993.

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