ANNAPOLIS – It was Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s biggest end-of-session party in eight years, but it wasn’t quite big enough.
There was no room for 28 of the 188 members of the General Assembly at the bash following Monday’s legislative finale.
As stern-looking guards checked IDs at the governor’s gate, legislators left off the list – most of them Republicans – had to find another party.
“I may be on his list, but I wasn’t on that list,” said Delegate James F. Ports Jr., R-Baltimore, who says he has always been invited to the party in other years. “This governor is just very vindictive.”
About 450 people attended the island-themed barbecue, said Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill. They listened to the Baltimore reggae band Mama Jama and snacked on chicken, pork ribs, fish and coconut rice.
Traditionally, Glendening holds a smaller dinner earlier in the evening. But this year, he wanted to include more people to celebrate legislative victories in his last session as governor, Morrill said. However, the house was too small to hold every legislator and their guests, he said.
Invitations went out to Glendening supporters, including most of the lawmakers as well as sympathetic lobbyists and Cabinet members.
“No one is entitled to an invitation,” Morrill said, “particularly when they have done nothing over the last eight years to move the agenda forward.”
The party took place under a tent measuring 125 feet by 50 feet, nearly covering the front yard at Government House, the Georgian-style country home that has housed Maryland’s governors for 125 years.
It was, by all accounts, the largest and most extravagant sine die party of the Glendening administration.
“I’ve never seen something this elaborate before, ever,” Ports said, adding that he couldn’t be certain since he could only watch the festivities through the wrought iron bars of the governor’s fence.
“I wouldn’t say it was lavish,” Morrill said. “It was a nice party.”
Some legislators walked away when they realized their guests would not be allowed inside. Security was appropriately tight in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Morrill said.
Ports wandered across the street to the more-inclusive Senate gathering, where he chatted with colleagues of all persuasions.
House Minority Leader Alfred W. Redmer Jr. of Baltimore County also stopped by the Senate party. He did not receive an invitation from Glendening, but he has always ignored them in the past, he said.
“I had absolutely no intention at all of going,” he said. “To go and have a beer with that guy is a thought I have never entertained.”
Invitations were delivered on a representative, non-partisan basis, Morrill said. Some Republicans were invited, and some Democrats were not.
Delegate Jean B. Cryor, R-Montgomery, was invited, said her legislative aide Kathy Clough. “She had a great time,” Clough said. “She said it was a lovely party.”
Morrill has “no idea” what the event or the giant tent cost, he said. It will be paid for through the Government House entertainment budget, private donations and private funds, he said.
Guests were treated to an open bar and each received a lei of plastic flowers.
“I think those cost about 36 cents,” Morrill said. “This cost taxpayers no additional money.”
But it’s just bad form to exclude elected representatives from a party funded in part by taxpayers, some lawmakers said.
“It’s really unusual,” said Ports.
Glendening’s predecessor and frequent critic, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, threw parties at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt and invited all the legislators, according to his spokesman Mike Golden.
“They were these really big blowouts,” Golden said, adding that one year Schaefer arrived riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
The Glendening bash featured no motorcycles.
“Well, Glendening’s never been too cool,” Golden said. “When you think of fun, you don’t think of Parris Glendening.”
Ports remembers wearing a Santa hat and singing in a bipartisan chorus with Schaefer at one of his parties.
“He took a lot of criticism from Republicans and Democrats, but always, always, without doubt invited everyone to everything,” he said. “Democrat, Republican, black, white – it didn’t matter. We were all just having fun.”
Ports couldn’t resist using the incident to put in a word for the Republican congressman vying to replace Glendening.
“I’m not crying and whining,” he said. “But I know one thing – Bob Ehrlich wouldn’t do that.”