By Phillip Caston and John O’Connor
ANNAPOLIS – Tuesday’s primary election, plus attrition, means morethan 20 percent of both General Assembly chambers, including keycommittee chairmen, will be new in January.
November’s general election could mean even more of a drain onlegislative leadership.
Defeated in Senate primary elections were incumbent Sens. BarbaraHoffman, D-Baltimore, Tim Ferguson, R-Carroll, and Arthur Dorman,D-Prince George’s. Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery,successfully challenged for a seat in Congress, while Clarence Blount,D-Baltimore, and Thomas Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, retired.
A minimum of nine new Senators will take office in the nextlegislative session.
In the House, 22 Democratic incumbents won’t be back, includingMajority Whip Sue Hecht of Frederick County, who won the party’snomination for state Senate Tuesday. Other key losses included Mark K.Shriver of Montgomery County, who lost his congressional bid to VanHollen, and Verna Jones of Baltimore, who won the Democratic nominationfor state Senate in that district. Only 10 seats changed hands for HouseRepublicans, including Minority Whip James Ports Jr., who won his primaryTuesday for Baltimore County Council, and David Brinkley, who defeatedFerguson in District 4, which includes Carroll and Frederick counties.The large turnover, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, is not unprecedented and makes for a better Senate. In 1994, hesaid, about one-third of all districts had new senators. Maryland’sDemocratic dominance in the Legislature is likely to remain even afterthe general election, and Miller, the state’s longest serving Senate president, is likely to retain his office. “It’s changes galore,” saidMiller. “We’re going to look at who has earned the right to be in thefront row . . . It’s nothing the Senate hasn’t encountered before anddealt with.”
Miller’s “front row” is composed of the powerful committee chairmenwho sit at the front of the Senate, just below the dais. Among the Senatelosses were the chairmen of three of the four standing committees –Budget and Taxation, Finance and Education, and Health and EnvironmentalAffairs — as well as the vice-chairmen for two of those threecommittees.
Miller said he would consult with county executives and others before making his leadership decisions, which would consider the state’sdiversity.
The House leadership drain is minimal. Only Kenneth Montague Jr.’s, D-Baltimore, joint committee vice-chairmanship is open.
Miller said Hoffman, the budget chairwoman, was a loss, but there are others who can lead in the Senate.
“We’ve lost a couple of key people . . . but there’s always somebodywith talents that have been hidden,” he said.
State Republicans saw the primary as a defeat for the current Senate leadership.
“It was not great news for Mike Miller last night,” said Louis Pope,vice- chairman for the state Republican Party. “I do believe you’ll seesome significant changes in the Senate.”
There are few with the influence in the Senate to challenge Miller’s presidency, however, said American University history professor Allan J. Lichtman.
“Obviously you’re going to have a major change in the leadership,” he said. “Power is going to move and the question is where the power willshift from. With Bromwell out, Hoffman out, I don’t see any challenge tohis (Miller’s) leadership.”
Pope predicted the Republicans, in the “biggest turnover in 20 years,” could gain three to five districts in the Senate and eight to 12 seats inthe House in the general election.
David Paulson, Maryland Democratic Party spokesman, said Democratsshould maintain or slightly improve their majorities in both houses. MostDemocratic losses, he said, would be filled by other Democrats.