Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott, a Republican candidate for Gladys Spellman's seat in Congress, has a lot of newfound friends in high places. Former U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall, several influential state senators and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Holt, she has heard, have recently developed a keen interest in her political future.
This does not surprise Scott and some of her supporters, who believe she is the best candidate and the one most able to defeat a Democratic opponent. But there is another reason for the increased interest in the Prince George's County race. As one state official put it: "A lot of Republicans see this as a referendum on Larry Hogan in the state party and they want to nail Hogan's knees to the ground to be really frank."
Lawrence J. Hogan, the Prince George's County executive, is not running for the 5th Congressional seat, but his 24-year-old son and namesake is. And that fact seems to bother many state Republicans who for a variety of reasons stretching back several years have an abiding distaste for all things Hogan. As a result, they would like to see the younger Hogan squashed in the April 7 special primary and have begun sending words of encouragement to Scott, his strongest opponent.
"A lot of people in the party feel that Junior's getting involved with this race was a power play by his father," said one state Republican leader, who asked not to be named. "They feel Larry Senior is interested in runnning for the (U.S.) Senate in 1982 and wants his name in the spotlight for the next 10 weeks [until the special general election May 19] to see what the reaction is." Said State Sen. Edward Thomas, "A lot of people feel Larry's kind of using his son as a sounding board."
Larry Hogan, the county executive, says his son is running simply because he believes he can be a good congressman and has the best shot at winning. Outside help from party leaders for Scott will have little effect, the county executive says. "What do they have to do with Prince George's County. Beall could never carry Prince George's County. We're gonna win this one, I'll tell you that."
Larry Hogan Jr., the candidate, agrees: "Those guys don't surprise me. They don't mean that much in this race. The Republican national committeeman and county executive [both positions are held by his father] is supporting me and the former county executive, Bill Gullett (who works in his father's county administration), is supporting me and that counts for much more."
The younger Hogan has good reason not to expect the support of such Republican party heavyweights as Beall and Holt. Although his father twice has been named national committeeman by party regulars, the senior Hogan and the party leadership have been feuding for some seven years, ever since Hogan, then poised for a governor's race, stood on the steps of the Capitol to declare that then-President Nixon should be impeached.
"A lot of people can't forgive him for that," said one party official. "They felt he was doing it as a grandstander, to help his bid for governor." Hogan lost the race in the Republican primary and spent several years attempting to soothe party stalwarts who have since 1974 viewed him as too ambitious at the expense of the party. "I think some people see a certain overaggressiveness, coveting too much" and have responded negatively to that, said Beall.
Relations appeared better until a Republican convention this summer in Ocean City when Hogan made it known that he wanted to head the state delegation to the Republican National Convention. Beall and others felt Hogan was "grasping" for power. They met in a locked hotel room without Hogan to work out an alternate arrangement that excluded Hogan and was adopted by the delegation. Beall, considered by many Republicans to be the dean of the party, also took the exception to a statement at the time by the younger Hogan that the former senator, was "pretty much of a has-been in the party."
Since then the old hard feelings between Hogan and many members of the state Republican party have resurfaced. Beall, according to friends, is still angry. Marjorie Holt wants to run for Senate herself in 1982 and doesn't like Hogan going around telling people he has the only shot at winning the race. And other state Republican leaders say that Hogan is not, in the words of one, "a team player."
As a result, when Spellman's seat was declared vacant two weeks ago and the younger Hogan announced his intention to run in the special election, several state party leaders began looking for an alternative. That alternative became Audrey Scott, despite the widely held belief in the county that the younger Hogan's name gave him the best shot at winning the seat in the general election against the Democrats.
"She's a first class individual," said Senate Minority Leader Edward Mason. "She's run and been elected. She's well respected and gutsy and you need someone like that in the general election (against the Democrats). If Junior didn't have his dad's name he wouldn't have a prayer."