GOP begins talk of Kittleman's successor

Suggestion to replace late senator due Oct. 11

September 16, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A memorial service for state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman isn't scheduled until Tuesday, but the Howard County Republican Party is advertising for candidates to replace him and plans a final vote Sept. 29, said Howard Rensin, county party chairman.

Most Republicans are publicly declining to speculate about a replacement for Kittleman, 78, who died Saturday of leukemia, as maneuvering for the job goes on behind the scenes.

"It's a public process that's not public," said Donald F. Norris, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "Kittleman was so highly regarded, there's really an effort to give the appearance of not moving forward too rapidly. On the other hand, they've got to do something."

The local party central committee has until Oct. 11, 30 days after his death, to make a recommendation to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Because one-third of Kittleman's 9th Legislative District is in Carroll County, that county's central committee must schedule a vote, too.

Howard County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon of Ellicott City and western county Del. Gail H. Bates appear to be likely contenders to replace Kittleman, but the situation is more complicated than usual.

In the past, a spouse was often named to fill out an official's term after a death, but in this case, Kittleman's widow, Trent Kittleman, who is deputy state secretary of transportation, or his son, Howard County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, might seek the office.

"I haven't made any formal decision," said Allan Kittleman, who has told supporters that he plans to run for Howard County executive in 2006.

"I love being in Ellicott City, and my dad and I had a wonderful relationship," he said.

Trent Kittleman, whose mother died three days before her husband of 18 years, said she is not able to focus on politics yet. She had expressed interest in the House of Delegates seat Robert Kittleman vacated to become a senator, but she took the job with the Ehrlich administration after Howard Del. Robert L. Flanagan resigned last year to become secretary of transportation.

Several political observers said that moving Merdon to the state Senate might help the party by avoiding a potentially divisive county executive primary contest between Allan Kittleman and Merdon, who has also talked about a possible run in 2006. It would also put a new Republican council member in office two years before a potential Democratic challenge.

Merdon declined to comment on such speculation, saying, "I want to respect the family's grieving."

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