Two years ago, they grumbled. Last year, they hissed. But today, when Gov. Harry Hughes sent the historic "Green Bag" to the Senate floor, almost nobody made a sound.
Inside the bag were Hughes' political appointments to hundreds of boards and commissions around the state -- the bread and butter of political patronage. For Hughes' first two years as governor, his refusal to bow to the wishes of powerful legislators in filling most posts met with rage and resentment.
Today's calm, according to several senators, meant two things: Legislators are resigning themselves to the fact that political patronage just isn't what it used to be around here; and Hughes, for his part, is playing the game a little better than before.
"Oh, it's still patronage," said Sen. Harry McGuirk, one of several powerful Baltimore senators who in past administrations held sway over many executive appointments. "But it's a different kind of patronage, Harry Hughes gives the jobs to the people who he feels elected him: John Q. Public."
Appointment secretary Constance Beims, who delivered the green velvet bag to Senate President James Clark explained that she and Hughes tried to increase the representation of women and blacks in making the appointments.
Out went Dr. Ross Pierpont of Baltimore, the 64-year-old chief of Surgery at University of Maryland Hospital and longtime member of the state Health and Mental Hygiene Board of Review. In place of Pierpont, a seventime unsuccessful Republican candidate for political office, came Howard Kenny, a black doctor from Silver Spring with experience in the occupational health field.
For a vacancy on the state ethics commission, Beims noted proudly that Hughes had appointed Betty B. Nelson, an active member of the League of Women Voters from the Eastern Shore.
In general, senators said they found the appointments to their liking. A key exception was Sen. Cornell Dypski from South Baltimore, who tried to keep Hughes from reappointing one of his constituents, Dolores Canoles, a community organization leader, to the city liquor board. Canoles' name showed up in the green bag, and Dypski refused afterward to say whether he will oppose her confirmation when it reaches the Senate floor.
Beims, 42, has been in her job for only a month, but apparently has won over some of the legislators who sharply criticized her predecessor, Louise Keelty, a former nun and lawyer, as "too cool" or "aloof."
Keelty came as a shock to many legislators who had grown accustomed to the way former governor Marvin Mandel and his patronage chief, Maurice Wyatt, used appointments to pay off political debts and build up political credit. For example, instead of letting legislators name whom they chose to political posts, Hughes and Keelty began requiring that all aspiring appointees submit resumes to the appointments secretary.
"I just didn't like it," said Sen. Joseph Bonvegna (D-Balt.) "If I give somebody a name, I don't give them a bum."
Beims still requires resumes, but several senators said they like her style nonetheless. While Keelty tied a pink ribbon around the green bag when she delivered it the first time, Beims pinned several black-eyed susans -- the Maryland state flower and presumably a symbol of tradition -- to the bag she delivered today.
In at least one case, Beims bowed to the wishes of a local delegation, putting aside her preference for blacks or women in filling political vacancies. She agreed to name longtime educator Thomas S. Gwynn Jr., a white man, to the Prince George's County Community College Board, after the local Senate delegation bridled at her initial requests that a black or a woman be named to the vacancy.
We got this man because we thought he was well qualified," said Sen. Mike Miller, head of the Prince George's Senate delegation. "I told her: Just tell us next time what you want -- a black or a woman or what. We ought to know. And she agreed with us."
Miller said of Beims: "I'd never met her before that, but she seemed very knowledgeable about the county, and she was very warm. She called me Mike and everything."
Other appointments did not conform at all to the push for increased female and minority representation. For example, A. James Clark, president of George Hyman Construction Co., was named to the University of Maryland board of regents, and retired Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Ralph W. Powers was named to the thoroughbred racing board.
Beims, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Goucher College and former executive director of the Maryland Commission of Women, said she was "very disappointed" that more blacks and women were not appointed, but she vowed to push for more the next time the Green Bag gets filled.