ANNAPOLIS – When Gov. Parris N. Glendening finished his address to the new Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, the delegates and their guests rose to their feet and applauded.
The last to stand was Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry.
The delayed standing ovation by Curry was seen by some as an expression of the tension said to exist between Curry, who did not initially support the governor in the 1998 election, and Glendening.
Curry doesn’t see it that way.
“I believe that’s a fiction largely created by the media,” Curry said. “I always come down the first day to inaugurate the scrimmage for funds.”
Too much has been made about his relationship with the governor, Curry said. Relations are fine between him and all of the session’s members, he said.
Glendening’s office isn’t quite so sure.
When Curry joined Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in choosing to back Glendening’s Democratic primary opponent in the gubernatorial election last year, it aggravated the already tense relations the men had, said Ray Feldmann, the governor’s press secretary.
“This election was about loyalty,” Feldmann said. “Whatever the relationship between the governor, Schmoke, and Curry, it’s not going to affect those jurisdictions in the next 90 days.”
But, Feldmann continued, “I don’t think Wayne Curry and Kurt Schmoke are on the governor’s Christmas card list anymore.”
Whether tensions exist or not, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, agreed the county should not worry about retribution.
“The governor’s from Prince George’s County. I’m from Prince George’s County. And we’ll be working for P.G. County, regardless,” Miller said.
After the support Glendening received from the county, Delegate Kerry Hill, D- Prince George’s, said he sees no reason why Glendening would turn his back on them.
Glendening received 74 percent of the vote in Prince George’s County in the 1998 election, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections official report. Glendening, who will be inaugurated for his second term Wednesday, was Prince George’s County executive before becoming governor.
“I don’t think personal tensions are going to come into play this session,” Hill said.
The delegation is dedicated to speaking with one voice for the issues that are important to the county, Hill said.
“I know the governor will do well by Prince George’s County. He always does,” said Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, D-Prince George’s County.
Calling the county executive the “new Wayne Curry,” Lawlah said Curry promised to come to the General Assembly in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.
“The county is No. 1, here,” Lawlah said. “We are all Prince Georgians.”
Senators, delegates, county executive and governor, alike, are quick to say education is the most important issue in the 1999 session.
“The county executive, Senate and House have to work together to push through the issue of education in Prince Georges county,” Miller said.
Last session, county lawmakers brought back $140 million to build 13 schools. This year, they are hoping for the same amount to build 13 more schools. That should give them enough schools to end busing, the delegation members said.
The county also needs money for better classroom equipment, higher teacher’s salaries and to make classrooms safer, said Delegate Melony Ghee Griffith, D-Prince George’s County.
“It’s not just about the buildings,” Griffith said. “Brick and mortar do not teach our children.”
Legislators also cited transportation and economic development as important issues for the county. Beltway alternative like U.S. Route 1, and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge are high on the list of those needing improvements.
Delegates and senators have not yet decided how they will vote on a gas tax increase supported by Glendening. The money is needed to repair the roads, but the delegates are concerned about their residents, said Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, D-Prince George’s County, chairman of the county’s delegation.
Before committing themselves, they want to know how their voters feel about the tax.
Getting money for the Wilson Bridge and other county road projects is imperative, Miller said. He doesn’t foresee the issue reaching the table this year, though.
“We’ll have to deal with it sometime in the next four years,” Miller said. “But I don’t think public opinion has jelled behind the idea, yet.”