ANNAPOLIS – Del. Robert McKee uses animal crackers. For Senator John J. Hafer, R-Garrett the charm is the Maryland flag pinned to his lapel.
Members of the General Assembly will use any number of rituals and good-luck totems to get them through their 90-day session.
If you happen to be in the Senate Chambers on a Thursday, don’t be surprised if you see tan. Thursdays are Camel Coat Caucus days, and not surprisingly, senators and pages sport the look.
Nancy German, administrative aide to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, said Camel Coat Caucus began about three years ago when several people wore the same- colored coat on one day.
They took a picture, and the rest is tradition.
Sen. David Craig, R-Harford, remembered to bring his camel on the first Thursday of this session.
“I wore mine,” Craig said.
The coat custom serves another purpose: It helps decipher the days of the week. When you arrive in Annapolis, the days start to blend, Craig said.
But Craig isn’t one for sentimentality. He’s starting the session with a new seat on the Senate floor, a new seat in his committee room and a new office.
“I don’t even have the same tie,” said the senator, who started in the General Assembly in 1991.
But let’s move from camels to crackers.
McKee, D-Washington, has not been without his animal crackers since joining the ranks of lawmakers in 1995. The practice developed out of personal taste: They’re not too sweet, have occasionally substituted for dinner and the power to behead is GRRRRreat. “I don’t even have to know what animal it is,” McKee said.
McKee’s fellow Western Marylander, Hafer, R-Garrett, got his legislative talisman as a Christmas gift from his late first wife. The enameled pin depicts the Free State’s flag in black and white. So many fellow senators liked it, Hafer said, that he began giving the pins as gifts.
Some lawmakers start each session looking toward the end.
Del. Thomas K. Hutchins, R-Charles, said one of his favorite traditions is Sine Die. On that day — April 7 this year — the session is adjourned and legislators are able to say a festive goodbye to all their friends and colleagues.
In order to rev up, Hutchins has a “focus on physical fitness.”
Every morning, he is up at 5 a.m. to run about 2 1/2 miles. At that hour, he is alone with the newspaper deliverers and trash collectors. He runs in anything but icy conditions.
He especially likes running around the Harbor and State Circle, even though he spends most of his working day there. The view never fails to impress him.
“You go up Francis Street and look up and see the Statehouse,” the delegate said. -30-