The fact is that after seven years in the Maryland legislature there are not a lot of Frank Komenda stories. So despite his stated desire to run an entirely positive campaign for 26th District Senate seat in next Tuesday's Democratic primary, even Komenda falls back on stories about his opponent, Del. Charles Blumenthal.
The personal styles of the two legislators clash "like Huey Long versus Calvin Coolidge," says their colleague, Del. Tim Maloney.
The Prince George's County Democratic leadership chose Komenda last fall to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Bozick because, as one of Komenda's detracting colleagues put it, "he's one of the 'me too' boys who is able, articulate and capable."
They also chose Komenda to keep the seat from Blumenthal, a populist-gadfly who has represented the south county district as a delegate since 1971.
"The race is important to me because I love Prince George's County," said Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller, who is waging all-out war on Blumenthal on behalf of Komenda from his neighboring 27th District seat. "Frankly I'm worried about the reputation of Prince George's County," said Miller, leader of the county's all-Democratic senate delegation.
"I didn't know I represented such a threat to him," said Blumenthal, who complained about the "Charlie Blumenthal stories" his critics tell.
He was particulary incensed by a report circulated by Komenda supporters that Blumenthal distributed campaign literature at a recent memorial service for the son of a prominent Filipino familiy. Blumenthal admits he wore a "delegate" name badge to the funeral, but denies that he was campaigning.
Blumenthal also complained that Miller tells people that he kicked off his campaign at Jim's Amoco station on Livingston Road by climbing a ladder to change the price when the state's higher gasoline tax took effect last July, then cut his credit cards to mock the new 24 percent interest rate ceiling approved by the legislature.
He would never have made it up a ladder, responded the portly 58-year-old Blumenthal, who said he was standing on an oil drum.
In last month's special session of the general assembly, called by Gov. Harry Hughes to extend benefits to thousands of unemployed workers, everyone expected to get out of Annapolis early. "It was a foregone conclusion that the bill was going to go as agreed to," said Komenda. "Then Charlie tried to amend the bill."
Blumenthal proposed raising unemployment benefits from $153 to $206 per week, but Komenda and most of the other legislators said the state could not afford the $180 million cost. The proposal received 10 votes.
"Charlie argued so vehemently on this bill-then he didn't even vote on it. It was sheer demagoguery. It tied up the General Assembly for hours," fumed the normally mild-mannered Komenda.
Blumenthal insists that his argument took only 15 minutues and that he voted for his amendment.
The methodical, diligent Komenda, who intends to knock on the doors of all 12,000 Democratic households in the district before Tuesday, admits that he is finding it difficult to explain that supporting the gasoline tax and higher interest rates was the responsible thing to do.
Komenda, 48, was more comfortable in Annapolis, studying complex and tedious legislation in the House Economic Matters Committee as a back-room conciliator.
His detractors charge he was most effective in accomplishing the legislative wishes of banking and insurance interests. Even his patron Miller describes him as a "soldier" and a "plodder."
Blumenthal, on the other hand, irritates his colleagues because, as Del. Tom Mooney put it, "he doesn't get along to go along." Blumenthal is most at home pressing flesh while telling constituents what they want to hear.
At a coffee Wednesday night, Blumenthal listened to Jerome Howard complain that his new $60,000 house in the Tor Bryan subdivision was falling apart. Blumenthal promised an answer from the builder "tomorrow morning, not tomorrow afternoon or the next day, tomorrow morning. And if I don't get the right response I will go to the attorney general," Blumenthal added.
Howard, a newcomer to the county, said he felt Blumenthal would keep his promise, even though he had not heard back from him by yesterday afternoon.
"I could feel the vibrations when he looked at me," said Howard, who later realized that he is still registered to vote in Virginia.
"I'm responsible for everything I do, not everything they say I do," said Blumenthal, who parachuted from an airplane during a bid for the Fourth congressional district seat in 1976.
In the last election, when they both ran as delegates, Blumenthal outpolled Komenda by 371 votes and Mooney said observers "expect it to come down to the absentee ballots."
"I am what I am, a low-key hardworking guy who know's the issues," said Komenda.
"They wanted me to stay in line, but you can't intimidate a guy who will jump out of an airplane," said Blumenthal.