ANNAPOLIS Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, never planned to oust a fellow Republican from the Maryland Assembly. In fact, he still declines credit for stripping F. Vernon Boozer last fall of his Senate seat of 27 years and his post as Senate minority leader.
But something had to be done about Boozer.
For years Boozer frustrated Haines’ conservative agenda with concessions to Democrats. Boozer actively opposed Haines’ bill to ban so-called partial-birth abortions. And as minority leader, Haines said Boozer compromised away other clearly Republican initiatives, including the income tax cut. Boozer let the Democrats run away with that idea like thieves in the night.
So when Dr. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County anti- abortion physician, called to ask for support in a Republican primary challenge against Boozer, Haines agreed to give some advice, a $1,000 donation, and some volunteers.
“I’m a Republican from head to toe,” Haines said. “So philosophically, when I see someone with the Republican label that is a liberal on social issues, I have a problem with that. I am going to support the Republican candidate who I feel will support Republicans.”
Haines’ zealous support for his conservative principles and the criticism it has drawn from some fellow Republicans demonstrates the tug-of-war between the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party in Maryland. Some Republicans say stubborn adherence to far-right principles is the reason the Maryland GOP is outnumbered nearly 3 to 1 in the state legislature and has been frustrated in statewide races again and again.
“(Haines) seems to espouse all of these social issues where the Christian right wants to dominate,” said Boozer from his law office. “He was never a guy that could work with both sides of the aisle. He can’t make things come together for what’s best for the state of Maryland because he clings to his hard-right positions.”
Maryland Republicans lose when moderates aren’t included, agreed former Sen. John W. Derr, a Republican from Frederick who says he also lost his seat of 16 years because he opposed Haines’ partial-birth abortion bill. Derr doesn’t believe Haines had any role in his defeat, but descibes Haines’ role in Boozer’s as “inexcusable.”
“In order to get anything accomplished, you have to take a more moderate stance,” Derr said. “Far-right conservatives who don’t want to cooperate will end up getting nothing.”
But Boozer’s ouster fit right in with Haines’ game plan for a more conservative Maryland. Haines tirelessly campaigned for GOP gubernatorial nominee Ellen Sauerbrey, in hopes the party could win the office it came within inches of four years before.
Haines’ election as Senate minority leader would complete the circle. Conservative causes, like his bill to ban partial-birth abortion, once a pipe dream, might actually have a chance.
The abortion bill will get a hearing today, and a conservative shift in the Senate makes its passage in that chamber very likely. That success belies the fact that other aspects of Haines’ plan have failed and Maryland’s conservative Republicans still have a long way to go.
Haines, 60, is an eighth-generation Carroll County resident who like many of his constituents, was reared on a farm. The hours of fieldwork squeezed in each morning before school instilled discipline and responsibility in the young basketball player and class president. He later tended his own crops to support his wife, Jane and four sons, but switched to the steadier real estate business in the mid 1970s. He’s run Haines Realty in Westminster ever since.
“He’s a good-old country boy,” said state Treasurer Richard Dixon, a Democrat from Carroll County, the first African American elected to that post and a 30-year political ally of Haines. “He’s honest, works hard, and he made it on his own.”
That integrity and work ethic drew similar praise from at least a dozen Democrats contacted in the Senate who are Haines’ ideological nemeses.
“I think when we get away from these highly divisive issues, he’s been very helpful and cares a lot about issues like domestic violence,” said Sen. Jenny Forehand, D- Montgomery, an abortion-rights advocate who sits next to Haines in the Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Abortion dominated Haines’ 1990 entre into politics. He upset his Democratic opponent, Jeff Griffith, a more politically experienced attorney, who along with the media branded Haines a religious extremist.
Haines responded that going to church on Sunday is no liability in his district. Today, he says he defies the right-wing label through his support for projects in his district such as an unsuccessful effort to create the Henryton Center – a job-training center for former drug addicts and a homeless shelter.
“I am trying to bring the drug addicts and the black people from Baltimore to help them,” Haines said. “Would a right-winger support that project?”
He has been re-elected twice last year without opposition in part because of his organizing skills. Every year Haines’ “Family Picnic” draws 12,000 people and is staffed by hundreds of volunteers. It brings in thousands of dollars for his campaigns, but, more importantly, it keeps him close to the folks in his district.
“You’ve got to go meet the people,” Haines said. “I go into the neighborhood and knock on doors. There isn’t anything I enjoy more.”
This year, Haines has held his own in the fight with Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening to keep a police training center in Sykesville. But Haines bill to ban partial-birth abortions shows less promise.
While it looks good for Senate passage, the bill’s fate in the House is unclear, and Gov. Parris N. Glendening has vowed to veto it if it fails to include exceptions for the health of the mother.
It is more evidence that Haines plan is failing. Without a friendly governor, thanks to Sauerbrey’s loss, and legislature, the bill will die again this year. Haines said the lackluster support of many GOP moderates is partly to blame. And, he didn’t bother running for Senate minority leader.
The Maryland Republican Party will succeed statewide if people like Haines articulate party values and fight for them, said Bill Brock, a former U.S. senator from Maryland who served in President Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet.
“When you’re in the middle of the road, that’s when you get run over,” said Brock, for whom Haines campaigned in his failed 1994 bid to return to the Senate.
“(Haines opposition to Boozer) says something good about Larry that he is willing to fight for the things he believes in. If the Republican Party in this state is ever going to elect people statewide, we have to have a clear-cut agenda and fight like the dickens for it.”
Maryland GOP leaders struggling to hold the factions together insist there is room for both moderates and conservatives.
“We have room for Vernon Boozer and Larry Haines,” said Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland GOP. “We don’t have a litmus test to be a part of the Republican Party of Maryland. The Democrats win when they blur the issues. We just have to define our issues and stick to them.”
Sauerbrey says the key to a statewide victory is sticking to Republican values, while reaching out to non- traditional supporters.
“I think we have to hold the conservative base, but we also have to reach out to the people who fall in the category of swing Democrats and capture that vote,” Sauerbrey said.
Haines agrees with Sauerbrey’s approach and says the Republican Party needs to appeal more to women and environmental voters. But he thinks by standing on principle, he is keeping the party true to itself.
“I think,” he said, “it’s moving the Republican Party to the middle.”