Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan appeared at the Maryland Inn here one morning last week to buy eggs and orange juice for a group of old adversaries -- the county legislative delegation.
It was a gathering both sides approached with modest expectations. The last time Hogan journeyed to the state capital, in March, an intended peace-making meeting deteriorated into a vitriolic exchange of threats and insults between the Republican executive and members of the all-Democratic delegation. Most of Hogan's legislative program was subsequently junked.
Hogan made little progress this time in winning over the county's legislators on the issues that helped cause the rift, but there was no shouting over breakfast. The indications are that the relationship between Hogan and the delegation will be more professional -- if not more productive -- in the coming months.
"There's a new attitude developing," says Del. Gerard F. Devlin, who once bitterly dubbed Hogan's legislative lobbyist, Ella Ennis, "the human postage stamp" for her refusal to elaborate on Hogan's terse messages to the statehouse. "Hogan has extended the olive branch, and some of the more vociferous members of the delegation are showing restraint."
The greatest single cause for the change is the convergence of the county's partisan interests on one object in the legislature this year -- money, particularly for the Prince George's share of Metro costs.
The effort to win funding for Metro -- not to mention funds for schools and police -- has made it easy for Hogan and the delegation to band together against the competing interests of Baltimore City and the state's rural areas.
While the session lasts, Ennis and members of Hogan's staff will meet each Monday with the county delegation's new finance committee to discuss the effect of money bills on the county, and to plan strategy for bringing state dollars to Prince George's. Hogan has even promised written reports from his budget officials on important legislation.
"In the past, the county has tended to free-lance on fiscal matters," says delegation chairman Robert Redding, who helped sponsor the new arrangement. "We all have the same goals this year, and we all recognize that we have to work together on these issues."
Beyond this perceived necessity of cooperating on funding matters, there is evidence that the partisan political animosity that drove Hogan and the delegation apart has faded in the past year.
After spending months compaigning against "the unholy alliance" of Democrats in the county, Hogan last year vehemently refused to compromise his wishes on appointments or new building projects -- the bread and butter of politics -- with those of the Democratic legislators.
Now, at the prodding of state Sen. Peter Bozick, Hogan has indicated he might be willing to make trade-offs with the Democrats on appointments he controls, and at least one such package is reportedly in the works in Upper Marlboro.
Another breakthrough came late last year, when Hogan went hat-in-hand to the Seat Pleasant restaurant of Sen. Tommie Broadwater to ask for help in winning County Council approval for police chief nominee James R. Taylor. Broadwater, who agreed to support Taylor, was one of the legislators who had traded insults with Hogan at the ill-fated legislative breakfast in March.
Even if such alliances do not hold up, Hogan has promised to make more trips to Annapolis this year to meet with the delegation. His son and chief staff aide, Larry Hogan Jr., also plans lobbying work from time to time.
"We had a lot of adjusting to do last year, in our first year in office," says Ennis. "But obviously we have a better feel for the issues this year, and communications will be better."
It is not likely that the two sides will agree on the bond issue before the session is over in April. But at least, Hogan staffers and legislators are saying, the Republican executive and the Democratic legislators may find a way to disagree -- without shouting.