Bromwell leaves big shoes to fill

The Political Game

Task: The Senate will be hard-pressed to find a successor to head the Finance Committee with Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell's skills and presence.

April 23, 2002|By Michael Dresser and Howard Libit | Michael Dresser and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

THE SENATE of Maryland has been around for more than 350 years, so the departure of one senator doesn't make much of an impact in the grand scheme of things.

Some senators, however, leave a void that is felt many years after they move on. They become part of Senate lore -- Jack Cade, Fred Malkus, Harry "Soft Shoes" McGuirk.

And now Tommy Bromwell.

The Baltimore County Democrat, who is leaving to become head of the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund, has been a commanding figure in the Senate during the eight years he has served as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.

In that role, Bromwell, 52, has served as supreme arbiter (at least on the Senate side) of competing economic interests.

Bromwell, however, was more than just a title. The five-term senator brought style, presence and a swagger to the job. He didn't just give floor reports; he gave performances. Whether he was clashing with other Senate titans, cracking wise at Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller or making an impassioned plea for "the little guy," he made the chamber a more interesting place to be.

The accent was blue-collar East Baltimore and his political resume says he was once a tavern-keeper, but pity the colleague who underestimated his intelligence. A powerful debater with a booming voice to match, he was quick-witted and funny while showing an excellent grasp of complex legislation.

"People enjoyed what he had to say," Miller said. "He will be very much missed -- as will his consensus-building skills in the committee."

Bromwell's departure opens up one of the plum positions in a Senate that could see sweeping changes because of redistricting and the election.

Sen. Arthur Dorman, vice chairman of the committee, is not seen as a possible successor. The 75-year-old Prince George's County Democrat missed most of this year's session with health problems and did not look well when he returned.

The leading candidate for promotion is Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, an amiable moderate from Charles County. The well-regarded Middleton, who serves as chairman of the Budget and Taxation Capital Budget Subcommittee, is regarded as one of the few senators with the abilities to be a future Senate president.

If Miller looks within the Finance Committee for a new chairman, Montgomery County's Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum and Anne Arundel County's Sen. John C. Astle could benefit. Neither, however, has the political skills of Bromwell.

Latest twist in Hecht's, Mooney's Internet saga

From the way that candidates for the 3rd State Senate District are exchanging political barbs over Web site names, Frederick County residents must be some of the most Internet-savvy voters in Maryland.

First came word late last year that a Virginia technology company had purchased the rights to the Internet domain names www.suehecht.com, www.sue hecht.org and www.suehecht.net -- preventing Democratic Del. Sue Hecht from using those Web sites in her campaign against Republican Sen. Alex X. Mooney.

The Virginia company -- known for backing conservative causes -- isn't affiliated with Mooney, and its purchase of Hecht's name on the Internet isn't a campaign contribution. But the purchase did force Hecht to come up with a more creative Web site name: www.hechtyesforsenate.com.

The latest twist to the Internet intrigue came last week, when Mooney discovered that a group calling itself the Defeat Mooney Committee had purchased the domain name www.defeatmooney.com. The only problem is that state election officials don't have any group registered under that name.

"The campaign season has not even begun and already my likely opponent seems to have waded deep into the mud of deceptive politics, creating a secret slush fund of campaign cash," Mooney said in a press release. He also filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections.

Hecht's campaign denied the accusation. "I never heard of the Defeat Mooney Committee until Mooney's overwrought press release was read to me," she responded.

So far, there's nothing on the Web site. Ross Goldstein, director of the state election board's candidacy and campaign finance division, said he will refer Mooney's complaint and information to the state prosecutor's office.

But someone claiming to represent the Defeat Mooney Committee has contacted Goldstein about bringing the group into compliance with state election laws -- likely ending any criminal investigation.

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