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Lots of Laughs, and a Few Snubs, At Governor's State of the State Address

By Philip Rucker
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yesterday's State of the State address, with its attendant pomp and politics, was something like an awards show, family reunion and high school assembly all in one. Here are some of the day's scenes.

Fenty, by Any Other Name

On such a day, Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) might have the toughest job in the House of Delegates. As presiding officer, he introduced each special guest -- all of the Cabinet secretaries, constitutional officers, county officials and former governors. He also introduced visiting dignitaries.

"The great mayor of the city of Washington, District of Columbia, Mr. Michael Fenty!" Busch said from a dais.

There was laughter all around.

"Mr. Adrian Fenty!" Busch said, correcting himself. "I'm sorry, Mayor."

"As long as you got the 'mayor' part right," Fenty (D) joked.

"I hope I don't get any parking tickets!" Busch said.

Some Former Governors

Speaking of dignitaries, there were several white-haired former governors in attendance: Marvin Mandel (D), Harry Hughes (D) and Parris N. Glendening (D). Absent, however, was William Donald Schaefer (D).

When asked why he didn't attend the speech by Gov. Martin O'Malley, Schaefer said he had not been invited.

"I didn't even know it was going to be today," the retired political legend said from his Anne Arundel County home. "I didn't get an invitation. . . . They may have forgotten to give me one."

But O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said that Schaefer was invited and that he responded no the day after the invitations were sent.

Regardless, there was no love lost between O'Malley and Schaefer.

"We haven't been what you would call 'friendly' for a number of years," Schaefer said. "We've never counseled each other."

Also absent was still-brown-haired former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Ehrlich was invited but told O'Malley aides that he had a "scheduling conflict."

Shout-Outs

Like a president speaking on the State of the Union, Gov. Martin O'Malley gave several notable shout-outs during his State of the State address.

When highlighting criminal justice initiatives in his speech, O'Malley thanked his friend Adrian M. Fenty for the District's cooperation. But one had to wonder how much Fenty really paid attention to O'Malley's speech. The fast-with-his-fingers mayor could be seen checking his BlackBerry frequently.

Then there was O'Malley's shout-out to Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) for helping pass health-care legislation in the fall's special session. That caused some of Middleton's colleagues to tease him.

"Ohhhh . . . Mac," crowed Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's), turning back to pat Middleton on the knee. "Teacher's Pet!"

To the Spin Zone

Once Gov. Martin O'Malley was finished speaking, politicos of all kinds -- statewide officials, senators, delegates, Cabinet secretaries, county officials and staffers -- filed into the State House's marble hallway (a.k.a. the Spin Zone) to discuss the governor's speech.

"He hit all the points," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), adding that he counted 22 applause lines in the 30-minute speech. "He was very well received."

"The whole speech was right on point," said Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). "Public safety is so important."

"I'm glad education is a priority," said Nancy S. Grasmick, the longtime state schools superintendent.

There also were the two senators slugging it out for the GOP nomination for the 1st Congressional District: Andrew P. Harris (Baltimore County) and E.J. Pipkin (Queen Anne's).

"I was just checking out some of my colleagues running for Congress," said Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery). "I was standing in a very dangerous place because there were a bunch of TV cameras and E.J. and Andy were lunging for them."

And then there was Peter Franchot, the indefatigable comptroller, who is always up for talking with reporters.

Asked what he thought of the Spin Zone, Franchot (D) said: "I'm glad to be part of it.

"How would you guys be able to write articles if people didn't give you input?"

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