Not ready to quit, Miller declares re-election bid

June 05, 2008|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,SUN REPORTER

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he had considered retiring and spending his time at baptisms and graduations like other grandparents. He said that "the saddest thing in life" is to see politicians stay in office longer than they should.

Nonetheless, Miller announced yesterday, he plans to run again for re-election in 2010.

It will be his 11th campaign for the Maryland General Assembly.

"If the people will have me, I will run enthusiastically for state senator," Miller said. "These people who are beneficiaries of my position and my seniority are saying, 'We've got you there, and we need to keep you.' I know I sound egotistical as hell, and I'm sorry it is that way, but it's the truth."

Miller's announcement ended more than a year of speculation about the plans of one of the state's longest-serving politicians, and it means the potential continuation of the Democrat's dominance in Maryland politics. A few hours before a fundraising gala in Baltimore, Miller appeared at a news conference in the state capital to confirm what many Annapolis insiders had come to expect, that the 65-year-old isn't ready to quit.

After first being elected to the House of Delegates in 1970 and the Senate four years later, Miller has solidified his power and become a principal kingmaker not only in his district, which includes Prince George's and Calvert counties, but throughout the state. Miller is a prolific fundraiser, though he says that is his least favorite part of the job, and he frequently directs campaign funds to fellow Democratic lawmakers facing tough races.

More than 250 people, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, were expected to attend last night's fundraiser at the waterfront InterContinental Harbor Court Hotel, at a cost of $1,000 a person. O'Malley, also a Democrat, had told Miller that he would support him if he ran again.

Miller would also continue in the Senate as a pall has been cast over the body by a federal investigation of his friend Sen. Ulysses Currie, who represents Prince George's County and is chairman of the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee. Currie attended last night's event.

Miller said yesterday that he is not concerned about the wide reach of the probe, in which federal prosecutors have requested documents and computers from Currie and committee staff members. "The princes of darkness are still around, call them voices from the sewer, and they want to say some things and they are going to try to tie this into some other things. I think this was a very isolated incident," Miller said. "If Senator Currie had done some untoward things, I would have known about it."

Miller has noted that Currie did not disclose to the state that he was an outside consultant for Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, whose offices also were raided by the FBI. But Miller said yesterday that federal authorities' involvement indicates they are investigating another matter. "I'm not sure if they've found it or not," he said.

At times emotional and teary-eyed, Miller joked that he decided to hold a news conference so that he wouldn't have to break down at the fundraiser in front of people who think of him as "tough" and "callous" and "vigorous."

Miller is known for cracking jokes and sharing obscure tidbits of General Assembly history. He's also known for deftly moving bills through the legislature - or blocking them.

A longtime proponent of legalizing slot-machine gambling in Maryland, Miller was instrumental in getting a compromise approved last year that puts the issue to voters in a November referendum. He also sounded warnings about the state's impending fiscal crisis before O'Malley called a special session, during which lawmakers raised taxes and cut spending to close the budget gap.

Also, Miller has delivered state funding to local projects. In 2008, he introduced measures that netted $1.25 million for projects, including the construction of a town hall in Calvert County and a river habitat center in Prince George's County. That constituted 10 percent of all bond funding directed to initiatives proposed by the Senate, which has 47 members.

Miller's candidacy is a turnaround. Shortly after the 2006 election, Miller said that his current four-year term would be his last. Yesterday, the senator explained that the election had been a particularly grueling one.

He changed his mind after O'Malley's election and his improved working relationship with House Speaker Michael E. Busch. The two legislative leaders have clashed in the past, especially over slots, which Busch opposed.

Miller also said that a number of constituents have approached him and asked him to run, including other politicians, the usher at church last weekend, community leaders and union bigwigs. (He clarified that Comptroller Peter Franchot, with whom he has a rocky relationship, was not among those urging Miller on.)

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