ANNAPOLIS – Maryland Senate Republicans took just over an hour Thursday afternoon to unanimously select Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, as new minority leader and Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll, as minority whip.
Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Martin Madden, R-Howard, called the meeting just two weeks after announcing he would leave his seat at the end of the year for personal and business reasons.
“I know Lowell will do a great job,” said Madden after the caucus meeting. “He was a wonderful minority whip.”
The new leadership, which will shepherd the party’s agenda when the General Assembly resumes in January, could signal a shift in party control since both Stoltzfus and Haines have more conservative voting records than Madden.
“I will vote conservative,” Stoltzfus said, “but I can’t see that our positions are that different from what we’ve had in the past.”
Madden brushed aside the differences in philosophy, saying minority leader “is not an ideological position.”
“I’m sure my replacement is cut from the moderate mold I’m cut from,” he said, adding that Stoltzfus is respected by members from both parties.
“I’m not interested in having a constant fight,” Stoltzfus said, referring to working with Senate Democrats. “That’s not my style.”
The old adage that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar applies, he said. “I hope my style is not abrasive.”
Both Stoltzfus and Haines said that they had good relationships with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert.
Haines was excited by the opportunity his new leadership position will give him.
“If we have a Republican start moving to the left, I’m willing to go after him, get him out and replace him.”
The Maryland Republican Party was pleased with the selection of both, said Michael Steele, chairman of the Maryland GOP.
“Leadership, conservative or moderate, has to be mindful of who they’re leading,” Steele said. He does think that the more conservative leadership will have a significant impact on the party’s priority issues — transportation, education and economic development.
Stoltzfus identified himself as “pro-life” and a fiscal conservative.
His voting record was significantly different from Madden’s on some issues, especially the environment.
During the 1999 and 2000 legislative sessions, Stoltzfus received an 11 percent score on key environmental issues from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, an organization that tracks state environmental legislation. His predecessor received a 63 percent score for the same period.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening has signaled that the environment will be a priority in the upcoming session. His office declined to comment on the leadership change, saying it was an internal party matter.
“There has always been a strong support for environmental issues” from that position, said Susan Brown, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “We expect him to carry on that tradition.”
The new leadership is good news for business, said the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
“Both (Stoltzfus and Haines) have shown a pro-business leadership . . . and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with them,” said Kathy Snyder, Maryland Chamber of Commerce president.
– 30 – CNS-9-27-01