Harry Hughes, who was often portrayed as the quiet man of Maryland politics during his campaign for governor, has become even quieter, if that is possible, in the month since the election.
While governors-elect in some other states have been fillingthe days until their inaugurations with convention trips, press conferences and a constant flow of appointments, Hughes, in keeping with his style, has not strayed far from home and has kept most of his plans to himself as he awaits Jan. 17, the day he takes over from Acting Gov. Blair Lee III.
"We have not sought any attention at all," said Michael Canning, a member of Hughes' transition team. "Harry's style is not to announce on Monday that he'll have an important announcement on Tuesday. We'll of course respond to any requests, but we're not going out of our way to get publicity."
Indeed, about the only publicity Hughes has gotten inone Baltimore newspaper since the election came in the form of an editorial that questioned why he was moving so slowly.
Hughes, a native of Maryland's Eastern Shore, where life moves at a slow and steady pace, has not yet made his first cabinet-level appointment. His aides say "next week" when asked when such appointments will be announced. They have been saying "next week" for several weeks now. Judson Garrett, a former assistant attorney general who will serve as legislative counsel, is the only staff assistant Hughes has selected.
While the Hughes transition team goes silently about its business in a suite of offices on the 15th floor of the state office building in downtown Baltimore, miles away, in the offices of the state bureaucracy, rumors take the place of reality. Every day, a new name comes up for health secretary or personnel secretary or chief of planning. The gossip travels a familiar route from bureaucrat to reporter and back through the bureaucracy until the rumor finally gets squelched by a Hughes spokesman.
It has reached the point that Hughes aides are now denying rumors before they get started. In a conversation with a reporter last week, one Hughes assistant started out by saying the state's deputy health secretary had not been elevated to the top post, even though the reporter was not calling to inquire about that subject.
J. Michael McWilliams, the transition chairman, and Canning, Hughes' longtime friend and subaltern, insist that they have been intentionally following a tortoise-like pace this month to avoid making decisions that could later embarrass them.
"It's not that we haven't been thinking about appointments," said Canning. "There have been discussions about them for several weeks. But we want to consider every possibility before the positions are dealt with in detail and with finality."
Other political sources say, however, that the transition team is badly split over the question of how far to go in changing the cabinet. They say this schism accounts for the lack of action thus far.
"There's the clean'em all out group and the keep some of 'em group," said one sources. "Right now the clean 'em outs are winning, but they can't come up with the people to fill the places."
The speculation, and apparent indecision, heightens the anxiety of top cabinet secretaries, many of them close to retirement age, who face Christmas without much job security. "In the private sector, on Christmas week they have office parties," said Personnel Secretary Henry G. Bosz. "We're worrying about pink slips."
Hughes has not avoided these top bureaucrats. In fact, he has had lengthy discussions with all of them. But the discussions have been about the workings of the various departments, not the men and women who run them.
"I was with Harry from just after 9 in the morning until 5:30 p.m.," recalled Bosz. "We kibitzed a little, and jokes a little. But as far as disposition of me goes, nothing. Nine plus hours with Harry and I don't know my fate."
For most of this month, since his return from a leisurely family vacation in Jamaica, Hughes has been methodically reviewing every department and division in the state government he is about to inherit.The review sessions have been run by Paul Cooper, a seasoned legislative analyst who, a decade ago, helped Hughes draft the state income revision that became known as the Cooper-Hughes bill.
"It's basically drab, nuts-and-bolts stuff," said one Hughes associate who has attended several sessions. "But Harring seems to take to it." Canning said the 52-year-old governor-elect is so preoccupied with the learning process that he comes into the office at 8 a.m., often eats lunch at his desk, and does not leave for home until 10 at night, a schedule that matches, if not surpasses, the time and energy he devoted to the campaign.
In the five weeks since his election, Hughes has shown little interest in the ceremonial aspects of government. He has twice avoided ventures that could be called political junkets-first refusing to attend a conference for governors-elect in Atlanta and then staying away from the Democratic mid-term convention in Memphis.
This week, at a testimonial for Francis B. Burch, the soon-departing attorney general, Hughes made a cameo appearance, shook a few hands and then left before bread was broken, preferring to eat dinner with his driver, Paul Archer, at a backtable in a small Little Italy restaurant rather than with Burch and a political crowd that included Acting Gov. Lee, former Gov. Williard J. Tawes and suspended Gov Marvin Mandel.
Typical of his laid-back personality, Hughes has allowed Lee to play out his final days in office without upstaging or second-guessing his successor. The two men have had friendly relations since the September primary,, and Hughes takes every opportunity to praise the acting governor for his cooperation.
When they sat together last week for the annual report on Maryland's economy, Huges kept quiet for the hour-long presentation while Lee interjected questions and comments.It took reporters' questions to elicit Hughes' only post-election statement, that the projected budgetary surplus of $202 million might allow him to expand upon his campaign promise of tax relief.
Hughes also has remained content while Lee fills vacanies on state boards and agencies, occasionally appointing a staff side or campaign ally to sensitive positions. He has expressed no regrets that Lee plans to appoint a new judge to the state's highest court with just a month left to his administration.
"Harry's perfectly comfortable with assuming the role of governor Jan. 17, said Canning. "We feel appointments are Lee's prerogative atthis point."