Harry R. Hughes, the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, has asked Baltimore Congresswoman Barbara A. Mikulski to serve as the next Maryland party chairman, despite Steny H. Hoyer's active pursuit of the job.
Hoyer, the lame-duck Senate president who was considered a favorite for the post, angered Hughes, according to campaign sources, by publicly expressing interest in the job without first consulting with Hughes. Hoyer also allowed his Prince George's County Senate colleagues to lobby on his behalf.
Harry's style," a source said. get Steny's name up front was old power politics and thats's not
Harry's style," a source said. Steny put himself in a position where he's very likely to be embarrassed."
Mikulski, a popular independent Democrat who has managed to win the hearts of old-line Baltimore political clubs, said she told Hughes Tuesday that she would consider his offer to be the state's first woman party chief and would reply by this weekend.
"I was very flattered but I really have to think it over in terms of the time commitments and how much it will take me away from Washington," said the first-term congresswoman who represents ethnic neighborhoods of Baltimore.
Hughes was campaigning on the state's Eastern Shore and could not be reached yesterday. His campaign manager , Mike Canning, confirmed the overture to Mikulski, saying Hughes was looking for new directions and new faces" and the congresswoman fits the bill.
"Barbara has not been in any party faction and she is viewed as an independent person who speaks and votes on issues based on people's needs," said Canning. "She is not viewed as a power politican. Harry also thought it was time for a woman."
By asking Mikulski to serve as the top party leader, Hughes ignored an active bid for the largely ceremonial post by Hoyer, who was attempting to regain some political strength after being defeated for the lieutenant governor nomination in the Sept. 12 primary.
On Tuesday, the day Hughes offered the job to Mikulski, Hoyer told a reporter he was interested in serving" as party chief and had been urged by many colleagues to seek it. "I've heard I could be the consensus choice," he said, "Now it's up to Harry."
Several Hoyer colleagues in the Prince George's legislative delegation and other Democratic regulars throughout the state have spoken favorably on Hoyer's behalf. After the primary, Hoyer sent letters urging support for Hughes to members of the party's central committee, who elect the party chairman.
Canning said Hughes was not happy to read in the newspaper about Hoyer's interest in the job before Hoye discussed it with him. Canning said Hoyer had mentioned that he wanted to discuss the chairmanship with Hughes, but never contacted him on the subject.
Hoyer could not be reached for comment yesterday. Technically, he could still run for the chairmanship, although such an effort would break the party's lonstanding tradition of accepting the gubernatorial nominee's recommendation. Hoyer's friends said yesterday it would be unlikely that he would oppose Hughes' choice.
"There is no question about it," said Democratic National Committeeman Thomas Farrington, a close friend of Hoyer. "Everybody's going to follow along with whatever Harry says. If Steny chooses, he might be able to run and get (the chairmanship). But I don't think he'd do that. It would hurt Harry and it would hurt Steny."