ANNAPOLIS – An Ehrlich administration official blasted Democrats on the Senate floor Friday, accusing them of “trying to turn back the clock” to when Democrats dominated state government.
The tirade came as Appointments Secretary Lawrence Hogan presented the Senate with the governor’s list of nominees to assorted state offices, praising the list as victory for diversity.
His tone became more barbed when he said “just the fact that we’re making changes and Republicans are being appointed for the first time in 40 years has inflamed some people and made them angry.”
Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor knew beforehand the content of Hogan’s speech, and the press office had alerted reporters to the speech before the session began.
“Some of them want to eliminate the positions of the governor’s new appointees because they don’t like party affiliation or their beliefs,” Hogan said. “They want to change the rules and change the laws and take away the governor’s appointment powers.”
At that, several Democrats began to walk out of the chamber.
Republican Senators on Thursday complained that Democrats were trying to fast-track a bill to abolish the state Board of Elections, of which three of the five members are Republicans.
Hogan went on to say some Democrats were “willing to say and do just about anything to protect the status quo and turn back the clock to the time of one-party domination.”
Ehrlich is Maryland’s first Republican governor in 38 years.
Many Democrats did not applaud when Hogan finished.
“I apologize if anyone’s offended,” Miller said after Hogan stepped down from the dais. “Rhetoric like that belongs on the State House steps, not in the Senate.”
Miller was lenient in his remarks to reporters after the session.
“This is a gang that’s new to Annapolis. They don’t know our traditions and our ways,” he said of the Ehrlich administration.
While Miller acknowledged that Gov. Parris Glendening’s Democratic administration was adept at moving Democrats into state offices, he said Ehrlich went farther than any previous administration in political appointments, firing civil servants who were registered Democrats and replacing them with “Republican cronies.”
Ehrlich came under fire in recent weeks after a former aide, Joseph Steffan Jr., admitted to spreading rumors that Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley had been unfaithful to his wife.
O’Malley is considered a likely candidate to run against Ehrlich in the 2006 gubernatorial election.
Ehrlich denied knowing about the rumor campaign. He accepted Steffan’s resignation immediately after the disclosure but refused Democratic demands for an apology.