ANNAPOLIS – By dipping into the General Assembly for Cabinet appointments, Maryland’s new Republican governor may have undercut support for two counties who will lose veteran representatives in the House of Delegates.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich appointed Delegate Robert Flanagan, R-Howard, to head Transportation and Delegate Thomas Hutchins, R-Charles, to head Veterans Affairs.
Both delegates will play influential roles at the head of two state agencies – particularly Flanagan, who will run a department of 10,000 state employees – but their replacements in the State House will have some legwork to do before reestablishing the connections the two made there.
“I have had a really good working relationship on both sides of the aisle,” Hutchins said. “That kind of relationship is not built in the course of the day.”
The Charles County and Howard County Republican Central Committees will nominate candidates for the vacancies, and the governor will make the appointments.
The Charles County Republican Central Committee Tuesday nominated Louis Hennessy, former head of the D.C. Metropolitan Police homicide division, said Ernest Wallace, committee chairman.
“We’ll try to get him involved in his or her (legislative) committee as soon as possible, said Southern Maryland Delegation Chairman Van Mitchell, D- Charles. “It’s a good year to come in, because there are 43 freshman in the House.”
The Howard County Central Committee could not be reached for comment.
The loss of two veteran members may not “make a huge difference on the floor,” said University of Maryland government and politics professor James Gimpel. “This is not going to alter the balance of power.”
Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in both the Senate and House of Delegates, where they outnumber Republicans 98 to 43. Choosing a longtime Republican lawmaker to run a state agency may have been a smart move on the governor’s part, Gimpel said. “It’s also a matter of rewards . . . bringing (Flanagan) on is a signal that he values the conservative base of the party.” Losing the lawmakers will hurt, but change is inevitable, said one prominent Howard lawmaker.
“Sixteen years is probably longer than most (legislators) served,” Sen. Robert Kittleman, D-Howard, a member of the delegation for all of Flanagan’s 16 years. “You have a lot of seniority, but that’s life and life goes on.”
Flanagan, an Appropriations Committee member, is “very familiar with the state budget,” but the new officeholder will eventually develop seniority, too, Kittleman said. The change will hit home in the respective districts, said David Paulson, state Democratic Party spokesman.
“Those jurisdictions obviously won’t have experienced hands to bring home whatever bacon they could,” Paulson said.
And they’ll need training, said House Minority Leader Alfred Redmer, R- Baltimore County. “Whoever their replacements are, we’ll spend an inordinate amount of time shortening the learning curve,” Redmer said.
There may be shuffling at the committee level, with more experienced lawmakers moving into the vacant seats and the new appointees moving into lesser positions. Redmer said he met with House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to talk about filling the committee vacancies, but could not release any names, he said.
“The Republican ranks aren’t very deep,” Gimpel said. “It’s not like they have much a of a farm team to draw from.”
The governor announced two more Cabinet members Tuesday: Lewis Riley, former Glendening administration agriculture secretary, was appointed to head the Department of Agriculture and Ron Franks, a hunting and gaming advocate, was appointed to head the Department of Natural Resources.
On Wednesday, Ehrlich appointed Mary Anne Saar to head the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Saar ran the Department of Juvenile Justice from 1990 to 1994.
The top spots at the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are still vacant, despite Ehrlich’s vow to fill his Cabinet by his inauguration. All nominations need Senate approval. Hearings for Delegate Kenneth C. Montague, appointed to head the Department of Juvenile Services begin Monday before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. – 30 – CNS-1-22-03