Steny H. Hoyer, the unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate and the lame duck president of the Maryland Senate, has moved quickly to repair his political career in the two weeks since his unexpected defeat at the polls and now appears the favorite to become the next state Democratic party chairman.
The Prince George's Democrat said yesterday that he is "interested in serving" as party chairman and has been asked by many colleagues to seek the post. "I've heard I could be the consensus choice," said Hoyer. "Now it's up to Harry."
He was referring to Harry R. Hughes, the former state transportation secretary who upset the favored ticket of Acting Gov. Blair Lee III and Hoyer in the Sept. 12 Democratic gubernational primary. Traditionally, the Democratic nominee for governor tells the party's state central committee who to select as chairman.
Hughes already has indicated a desire to replace Baltimore County Sen. Roy N. Staten, an old-line politician who was appointed state chairman by now-suspended Gov. Marvin Mandel. "The party needs a new face," said Hughes, "and a new direction."
Although Hughes and Hoyer discussed the party chairmanship briefly at a meeting last week. Hughes said yesterday he has not decided who he will recommend for the job.
Hoyer noted that he and Hughes were "close friends" when they served in the state senate together from 1966 to 1970. The friendship cooled considerably during this year's campaign. Hughes told many of his associates that he considered Hoyer "too calculating and ambitious."
Staten said he considered Hoyer a "strong candidate" for the post. He has called a state central committee meeting for Oct. 12 to select a new chairman.
Under Staten, the functions of the party chairman were largely ceremonial. Staten was a close associate of Marvin Mandel, a governor who rarely delegated political power to others. Staten said he paid himself $500 a month to run the state organization.
Hoyer, at 39 one of the most openly ambitious politicians in the state, would be expected to bring new energy and authority to the job. "That might be the only thing going against him," said one Prince George's delegate. "Harry might be afraid to give Hoyer a base like that."
Hoyer, who abandoned his senate seat to run with Lee, already has maneuvered into a position where he, more than anyone else, will decide his successor as senate president. The eight Prince George's senators met last week and decided to vote as a bloc for the next senate president and use Hoyer as their negotiator.
"That should give Steny a lot of power," said Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller. "With a bloc of eight votes, we can pretty much swing the election. Baltimore City and the other counties won't vote as a bloc."
Hoyer said he has not yet decided who to support for senate president. The early contenders are said to include Harry mcGuirk (D-Baltimore City), James Clark (D-Howard), J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D-Baltimore City) and Arthur Helton (D-Harford County). Although McGuirk, the majority leader last session, is considered the favorite among his senate colleagues, he is not particularly friendly with Hughes.