ANNAPOLIS – Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, agreed Friday to intercede with environmental groups on behalf of Lynn Buhl, the governor’s embattled candidate for environment secretary.
Gilchrest, known as a pro-environmental Republican with good relationships among conservation groups, was asked to help with the nomination by the Eastern Shore delegation before Buhl’s nomination goes to the Senate floor Tuesday.
Delegate Kenneth Schisler, R-Talbot, said it was critical to build as much support as possible behind Buhl in the next 72 hours.
Buhl’s nomination has been in trouble since Monday night, when the Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted 10-9 to reject the nomination, a first in the 30-year history of Maryland’s modern government.
Senators and delegates alike have questioned whether or not Buhl, formerly an employee of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality and an auto industry lawyer, is qualified to run Maryland’s Department of the Environment.
Following Buhl’s rejection, Gov. Robert Ehrlich instructed his staff to withdraw support for a bill to increase fines for water pollution offenses, a move that angered many environmentalists.
At Friday’s meeting, Schisler railed against the “politics of personal destruction,” which were troubling the nomination, something he said he found “personally deeply, deeply offensive.”
Gilchrest, who worked with then Rep. Ehrlich in Congress, said he hadn’t gotten involved earlier because of family obligations and congressional duties, and no one had asked for his help.
“You have made the first request personally to me,” said Gilchrest to Schisler. “We’ll take the time to do that.”
In addition to Gilchrest’s assistance, negotiations with eight undecided senators will continue through the weekend, and the outlook for Buhl’s confirmation was “cautiously optimistic,” said Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset.
Maryland legislators are extremely sensitive to environmental issues and have great experience with them, something the Ehrlich administration failed to take into account when pushing this nomination, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert.
While the situation is a stalemate at the moment, “some very wise people” are involved, and people still have time to come together to try and work out a plan, although the vote will be held Tuesday regardless, Miller said.
“A lot of threats were made – I don’t have anything to offer and I’m not lobbying for or against the nominee,” Miller said. “No matter how it turns out, it will be very divisive on Tuesday.”