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O'Donnell Isn't Backing Down in Bid to Oust Busch

By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 19, 2004; Page SM04

House Republican Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell is not just whipping up votes for his caucus these days. The Calvert County lawmaker is trying to foment a House revolt.

That's the only way to describe his public clamor for the overthrow of House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), whom he called a "disappointment."

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O'Donnell has pledged to throw his caucus's 43 votes behind any Democrat who steps up to challenge Busch when the House reconvenes in January.

Would O'Donnell really throw Republican support behind any of the House's 141 members? How about Del. Peter Franchot, the Takoma Park lawyer who is among the most vocal slots foes?

O'Donnell's reply: "The reality is, I'm so disappointed in the leadership, that I couldn't think of a credible person who could be worse than what we have now. But I'm not sure about Peter Franchot."

Franchot is not a likely candidate, in view of the e-mail he sent to area newspapers after reading about O'Donnell's offer in the Baltimore Sun last weekend.

He called O'Donnell's comments "extraordinary for their sheer personal venom" and illustrative of "partisan-fueled attack politics that Bob Ehrlich learned from [former U.S. House speaker] Newt Gingrich and [U.S. House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay as a member of Congress, then brought to Annapolis as governor."

Further, Franchot warned that anyone who tried to take on the speaker "would be placing your hat in the ring as the favorite son of Gov. Ehrlich and the Republican right."

O'Donnell said he was not deterred by the Franchot broadside. His offer stands, he said, even though openly cultivating a coup is a pretty bold move, considering the amount of power the speaker wields in the General Assembly's lower chamber.

Couldn't he find himself with an office in a broom closet? Or assigned to the committee in which he has the least interest? (He won't say which that is.) Or even stuck with a parking space out at the Naval Academy football stadium, forced to walk the half-mile to the State House during the darkest days of winter?

"I'm not fearful," O'Donnell said. "I spent 8 1/2 years in the military."

Up and Down the Dial

The days when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) offered his freewheeling opinions, including those on multiculturalism, during a twice-monthly call-in show on Baltimore talk radio have come to an end.

Ehrlich's press office has confirmed that the governor is no longer keeping his Thursday engagements with talk show host Ron Smith, whose show is widely viewed as one of his most friendly venues to vent.

No word whether canceling the segments stems from a flap over the Ehrlich administration's hiring of the host's wife, June Smith, who now heads the communications office of the state Department of Juvenile Services, where she makes $79,771 a year.

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