Maryland Lieutenant Governor Samuel W. Bogley III, whose self-deprecating style has won a sympathetic following in the General Assembly, expanded his repertory this week and took a stab at the man who brought him to office: Gov. Harry Hughes.
For nearly four years Bogley has endured an uncomfortable relationship with Hughes, endorsing him publicly whenever necessary and seldom discussing their well-known disagreements on abortion. But the strains of the relationship have begun to take their toll, and as Bogley begins to contemplate life-without-Hughes in the future, his criticisms have become more open and more vehement.
This week Bogley appeared at an annual Republican fund-raising event here and delighted his hosts by volunteering a $50 contribution, even though he was invited as a guest. He used the stage for an uncharacteristic outpouring of complaints about his job, notably the idle hours that increasingly have filled his days. And he casually floated the idea of switching parties, making clear he might be available if the offer were right.
"My position is basically like being stowed away on the ship of state for four years," Bogley said to some 200 Republicans who gathered to roast Del. Robert R. Neall (R-Anne Arundel). "It's like being in Maryland's answer to the catacombs. The office is a stepping stone to obscurity."
Bogley said he had thought the governor would offer him a high-level position in government at the end of this term--Hughes has made it clear that Bogley will not be invited back as his running-mate--but that he realized now that he would only get a position that was "lower than whale fertilizer."
Although an assistant to Bogley said today that his remarks were made in jest, they were strong enough to attract attention from Republicans who are trying to find a weak spot in Hughes, and perhaps a potential convert inside the Democratic administration.
Bogley, who spoke critically of Hughes at a gathering of Prince George's County Republicans last month, announced at the fund-raiser that he had been approached by the Republican Party and hinted that he could probably get a higher-level appointment there than with the Democrats.
"We certainly would welcome a man as well-respected as Sam Bogley," Republican State Party Chairman Allan Levey said today.
"It's a significant straw in the wind," Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery) said when apprised of Bogley's appearance at the Republican roast. "At the first sign of any weakness in Harry Hughes a lot of people are going to be leaping at his throat. I think he Bogley thinks he has been a good public servant and he thinks his talents are underutilized."
But while these Republicans hoped aloud that Bogley would switch parties, one Republican senator said, "He can do more damage to Hughes as a Democrat."
Bogley's outspokenness this week annoyed some Democrats who said "it was a stupid thing to do," but came as no suprise to Hughes staff members.
"He's a decent guy but he really shows political naivete," said Hughes' press secretary, Lou Panos, when informed of Bogley's comments. Panos suggested that Bogley's good-guy image was an act to win sympathy from other politicians.
Bogley was known to want a cabinet secretary's post if Hughes were reelected. He has also considered running for Prince George's county executive or challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, political observers said.