GOP fund-raiser likely to be named Md. regent

Ehrlich also is expected to nominate two others

February 20, 2003|By Alec MacGillis and David Nitkin | Alec MacGillis and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is expected today to nominate a leading Republican fund-raiser and two others as regents of the University System of Maryland, the governor's first additions to a board dominated by allies of his Democratic predecessor.

Sources close to the board said yesterday that one of the nominees will be Richard E. Hug, the finance chairman for Ehrlich's gubernatorial campaign. The governor's office declined to identify the nominees.

Hug, 68, led fund raising that brought in more than $10 million for Ehrlich -- outpacing his opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, despite her strong ties to out-of-state donors. Hug ran an environmental technology company before retiring in 1995.

Hug said he would enjoy serving on the regents. "I've got close ties to the University of Maryland. ... Both of my children went there," he said. "I've been a significant contributor to the University of Maryland."

Since Ehrlich's election, Hug has been mentioned as a possible chairman of the 17-member board, which oversees the university system's 13 institutions. In December, the board elected Clifford M. Kendall, a retired Montgomery County businessman, as chairman, but Kendall made clear that he would step down if Ehrlich later preferred to install an ally in the position.

Yesterday, Hug said he had received no indication that Ehrlich would urge the board to make him its chairman.

"Right now, the board has a very competent chairman in Cliff Kendall," he said.

Kendall said that he also has received no word that the governor would like to have Hug replace him as chairman.

"[Hug] is just wonderful and would be a terrific addition to the board," Kendall said. "He has a great interest in higher education. I think he'd be an excellent chairman."

The addition of three Ehrlich nominees will alter the makeup of a board that critics say was politicized in recent years with the nomination of several friends of then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Last year, the regents, all of them Glendening appointees, were criticized for considering him as a candidate for chancellor of the university system, a $375,000 position.

Observers predict that the additions will produce more debate on the board, which often votes unanimously. Adding an Ehrlich ally also could help the board make its case for funding for the system, which has suffered budget cuts this year.

"One of the most critical needs that I found when I was on the board is having the full faith and trust of the governor," said former regent Edwin S. Crawford.

The terms of three regents expire in June: Baltimore lawyer Leronia A. Josey; Bruce Marcus, a Prince George's County lawyer; and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, 5th District Democrat, who has asked not to be reappointed. Also, Lance W. Billingsley, a Prince George's lawyer, has indicated he will leave the board.

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