Senate GOP picks new leader

As minority whip, Brinkley was an advocate of Ehrlich's agenda

December 19, 2006|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Republicans in the state Senate chose Sen. David R. Brinkley, a low-key lawmaker from Frederick, as their new leader after a weeks-long deadlock over who would best be able to advance GOP principles once Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. leaves office.

Brinkley beat out Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican known for his aggressive opposition to Democratic leaders in the General Assembly.

But Brinkley said his selection should not be viewed as any sort of capitulation to the majority party. Ehrlich recently exhorted Republicans in the legislature to stand in strong opposition to the Democrats, and Brinkley said he believes his election is in line with that request.

"What I think the governor cared about is ensuring we not cave in to whatever the Democratic legislature wants to pass but that we keep the heat on," Brinkley said. "I do not think anybody in the caucus believed `go-along-to-get-along' was a strategy that should be in our playbook."

Harris was the minority whip for the past four years and was known as an outspoken advocate for Ehrlich's agenda, although on some issues, his views are more conservative than the governor's.

The Senate GOP caucus' decision came a day before House Republicans were set to vote on their leadership in a contest that is also shaping up as a decision about how the party can most effectively operate once Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, takes over from Ehrlich.

The main contenders for House minority leader are Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the minority whip from Southern Maryland and a key spokesman for Ehrlich in the legislature, and Del. A. Wade Kach, a Baltimore County Republican who says he wants to foster a more collaborative relationship with Democratic leaders.

Republicans lost six seats in the House of Delegates, leaving the caucus at a 37-104 disadvantage. The party maintained its 14 seats in the 47-member Senate.

The Senate caucus met for more than nine hours last month when it first tried to pick a leader, but neither Brinkley nor Harris was able to break the 7-7 tie. Yesterday, the Republicans took just over an hour to pick Brinkley, 47, an estate and financial planner who is the married father of two.

The Republicans had previously agreed to make Sen. Allan H. Kittleman of Howard County the minority whip.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, who served as minority leader from 2001 to 2006 but chose not to seek the post again, said the difficulty of the decision does not mean the caucus is fractured.

"The caucus is very unified," Stoltzfus said. "We do not want the time this has taken us as being indicative at all that we are not unified, because we all believe in the same principles."

But divisions appear to remain about how best to advance those principles in a legislature where Republicans remain outnumbered more than 2-1. Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Frederick County Republican and one of Harris' strongest supporters, said he will continue to fight for his beliefs, no matter what strategy the party's leadership adopts.

"There is still 46 percent of the people in Maryland who want a different vision than what is going to be proposed by the majority party," Mooney said, referring to the share of the statewide vote Ehrlich received. "We are going to win some battles and we are going to lose some battles, but we need to keep fighting."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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