Maryland Senate President James Clark Jr. said today it appears he will be deposed from his powerful leadership post by State Sen. Melvin Steinberg (D-Baltimore County) and that he expects to concede defeat to Steinberg after the two men meet here Wednesday.
Clark, a crusty Howard County farmer who has presided over the Senate the last four years, said, "It's pretty obvious he has got the votes. I told my people to do what they wanted to. They said it's up to me. I would think I'll make my announcement after I talk to Mickey."
The change of control would take place next Monday, when the Democrats, who control the legislature, meet in caucus to elect their leaders. Caucus decisions are made official on the first day of the legislative session in January.
Steinberg's apparent defeat of Clark also would produce changes among committee chairmen, who are appointed by the president. It also would likely give a new cast to that legislative body, since Steinberg, a wisecracking lawyer, has pledged to be more aggressive in leading the Senate than the low-key, soft-spoken Clark. Steinberg is also considered more politically liberal than Clark. Steinberg's candidacy was supported strongly by labor leaders, who expect to benefit if he presides over the 47-member body.
Steinberg's ascendancy would mark the first time in 16 years that a sitting Senate president has been toppled.
Steinberg said today that Clark called him to set up Wednesday's meeting without saying he was dropping out of the race for the presidency. However, Steinberg said that since the Senate's black caucus backed him unanimously last week, he has had more than enough votes among the 41 Democratic members to unseat Clark.
Steinberg said he would give Clark an assignment on a major committee and would not be averse to including him in the new leadership, which includes committee chairmen, vice chairmen and floor leaders, all of whom are appointed by the Senate president.
"I don't know what I want to do," Clark said. "I'll be on a committee and I'll have an office. Everyone has one of those. Beyond that, I'm not sure what I'll do."
In another legislative matter today, Del. Charles J. (Buzz) Ryan was elected chairman of the Prince George's County House delegation, succeeding Del. Robert S. Redding, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. Ryan's victory was assured when House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin told the delegation he planned to make Del. Lorraine Sheehan, Ryan's only opponent, a member of the House leadership.
Del. Nathaniel Exum was elected first vice chairman and Del. Pauline Menes second vice chairman.