Panel named to select state treasurer nominee

34-member committee appointed yesterday will review applications

Legislative approval required

January 19, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

Legislative leaders named a special joint committee yesterday that will choose a nominee to replace state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, who announced Thursday he will resign Feb. 1 because of advancing diabetes.

The House speaker and Senate president appointed the 34-member committee, led by Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a Baltimore Democrat, and Del. Thomas E. Dewberry, a Baltimore County Democrat.

The committee is made up of 17 senators and 17 delegates, and includes five Republicans. It will review applications and then decide on a nominee.

That person must be approved by a majority of the General Assembly.

The state treasurer is responsible for overseeing the state's investments and for disbursing state funds. The treasurer is also one of three members, along with the comptroller and the governor, on the Board of Public Works, which approves major state contracts.

Although any adult Maryland resident may apply to be treasurer, candidates from within the House majority party have an advantage: Because 106 Democrats are in the House, they can control the election's outcome if they unite behind a candidate.

Maneuvering begins

Yesterday, however, some jockeying for the job among Democrats had begun. Prince George's Del. Pauline H. Menes, 77, officially declared her candidacy. She was immediately endorsed by her county's House delegation.

Menes ran against Dixon for treasurer in 1995. In a late-afternoon news conference yesterday, Menes noted her economics degree from Hunter College and her previous endorsement by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which favored her over Dixon, who is black.

But Montgomery County delegates spoke mostly of Del. Nancy K. Kopp, 58, who is considered one of the legislature's fiscal experts. She is chairwoman of the Assembly's Spending Affordability Committee, as well as an education and economic development subcommittee.

Kopp said she was seriously considering the job. Because no Montgomery politicians hold top-ranking positions in state government, her fellow delegation mem- bers are eager to see one of their own sitting on the Board of Public Works.

Montgomery Dels. Sheila E. Hixson and Kumar P. Barve said they might be interested in running for treasurer, but only if Kopp declines.

Another possible candidate is Del. John S. Arnick, 68, a Baltimore County Democrat, who could face re-election difficulties because of redistricting. He said Thursday he was considering joining the race.

Pension board affected

When Dixon steps down, he will also leave vacant the chairmanship of the state pension board. As vice chairman, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer will automatically take over.

The 14-member board must decide whether to elect someone to complete Dixon's one-year term, which ends in June, or leave Schaefer in charge until that time and then pick a replacement.

Schaefer, who has frequently failed to attend pension board meetings, would not say yesterday whether he wanted to be chairman.

"It's too soon to discuss the matter since the treasurer's not out of office," said Michael D. Golden, Schaefer's spokesman.

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