Howard County Republicans unanimously chose Gail H. Bates for appointment to a vacant seat in the Maryland House of Delegates last night, but the insurgent campaign of 28-year-old conservative Anthony C. Wisniewski has thrown the process into disarray.
Although Montgomery County contains just a sliver of District 14B - and none will remain after redistricting - Wisniewski won a majority of the Montgomery County Republicans to his side at a Tuesday night meeting, creating a split between Republicans in the two counties. If they cannot resolve their differences and recommend one name to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the Democratic governor will choose between the two.
"None of us [Republicans] wants to have Parris Glendening have any part in this decision," said Howard party Chairman Louis M. Pope, who said he expects to schedule a joint meeting of the two central committees within a week.
Wisniewski, who attended last night's meeting in Columbia with a small group of supporters and a partner from his law firm, Tydings and Rosenberg, campaigned vigorously for the appointment and intimated that he might run for the seat in November even if he is not appointed to it.
Frederick state Sen. Alex X. Mooney attended the Tuesday night meeting in Montgomery County and helped Wisniewski win there, he said.
"It's time to move forward, to have new blood in the party," he said. "I intend on pursuing this candidacy with zeal and vigor," Wisniewski said at one point, adding that his legislative priorities are excellence in education, fending off restrictions to gun ownership and "the right to life."
Thomas M. Wilson III, a partner at Tydings and Rosenberg, told the committee after its choice of Bates was announced that its plan to confer with their fellow Republicans from Montgomery County is "unconstitutional," a view the committee rejected.
A third candidate, political novice John Hunt, 55, of Glenelg, also threw his support to Wisniewski. A fourth, Trent Kittleman, had withdrawn from the contest.
The meeting was to fill the last vacancy after an unusual period of political round robin in which three prominent Republicans have resigned their General Assembly seats recently.
Bates, 56, of West Friendship ran for the County Council in 1998, was a top aide to former Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker for eight years, has managed campaigns for other Republicans and served for a decade on the party central committee.
"You all know me," she told the committee, recounting her years of volunteer work for the party and candidates.
She was chosen by the Howard County Republican State Central Committee to fill the seat vacated by former House minority leader Robert H. Kittleman. Kittleman left the House for the state Senate, replacing Christopher J. McCabe. Both men represented the 14th District, covering western Howard and northeastern Montgomery counties.
McCabe and former Sen. Martin G. Madden resigned their Senate seats Jan. 7. McCabe took a job in the Bush administration, and Madden returned to private life. Sandra B. Schrader, Madden's legislative aide, was named to fill his seat.
Bates is a part-time aide to Del. Donald E. Murphy, a Republican who represents Catonsville and Elkridge.
Republicans have tried to pick people for the vacancies that they feel have a good chance of winning a full term in the November elections. They think that letting the new appointees serve during this year's General Assembly session will bolster those chances, enabling the three to be seen as incumbents by voters.