Senate Titan Sets Exit, and Maneuvering Begins

Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who was first elected to the legislature in 1970, and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who was first elected to the legislature in 1970, and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006

For much of the past three decades, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has been the state's most visible wheeler-dealer, money raiser, kingmaker, gavel smasher and irrepressible political force.

Now, after an unprecedented 20-year reign as Senate president, Miller, 63, says he has decided to make his coming four-year term his last.

"At that point in my life, I can step down and turn the gavel over to the next generation," Miller said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I intend to work with them, serve out the four-year term and step aside."

He was reelected Nov. 7 and will begin serving his 10th term in the General Assembly when it reconvenes Jan. 10.

His plans for retirement, though four years in the distance, had almost immediate reverberations in the state capital.

Within hours of his plans becoming known, senators had detected one of those rare political moments when ambition and opportunity intersect. Several began calling Miller for advice about moving up.

Miller tried to maintain calm, calling reporters to clarify that he plans to run his chamber for the next four years.

"I mean, please," he implored one reporter. "Take it easy on this."

But in the next breath, Miller began circulating the names of Democrats who probably will be vying to replace him: Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (Charles), Sen. Brian E. Frosh (Montgomery), Sen. Ulysses Currie (Prince George's).

Plenty of others will start making moves, Miller confided, as he tried to deftly deflate what could become an unseemly four-year campaign to replace him. "I'm just telling them to relax. We're going to give all of them the opportunity to shine," he said. "I'm not going to anoint anybody."

At the least, the four years of advance warning will enable senators to start to envision the chamber in someone else's control. Miller's retirement plans were first reported yesterday by the Washington Times.

"Because he's been there for 20 years, we're looking at a brave new world," Frosh said.

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