After threatening to reject a dozen appointments made by County Executive Parris Glendening, the Prince George's County Council, in a dramatic reversal of its collective mood, approved them all unanimously in its July 26 meeting, its last before the summer recess.
"In the executive sessions they yell and scream and talk about how they're going to stand up to Glendening , and when they get out there, they're like little lambs led to slaughter," complained council member Sue V. Mills, who nevertheless voted with the majority to approve the appointments.
"There were just a lot of positive feelings down there in the council ," shrugged Glendening last week. "It was as close to a lovefest as you're going to find in those kinds of interactions."
In fact, love had little to do with turning the tide for Glendening, who earlier had been blasted as inhumane and politically inept by council members opposed to the appointments. Glendening, who has prided himself on appointing "quality" people to the various boards and commissions instead of plain political loyalists, turned to some old-fashioned politicking to get his nominees through.
Soon after announcing his choices with a discreet reception for them, Glendening set about healing the wounds caused by his decision to replace a particularly well-liked member of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). He told the WSSC member, Andrew Vislosky, that he would find him another, albeit less prestigious, appointment and he asked Vislosky to make some phone calls to let the council know that he was not angry. He called Vislosky's longtime friend, state Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller, to break the news--as well as to hint that a challenge to Glendening would not be fruitful.
"It's the Bowie Kuhn situation--we bowed to the inevitable," Miller said. Glendening "made the point that we could reject Glendening's choice but another would come down and another and another. Really, there wasn't a desire to fight an incumbent county executive from the same party," Miller added.
Glendening then talked to each council member in turn to hear their complaints and to list the advantages of the appointments he had sent down. Then, just to make sure, according to an aide, Glendening called in the reinforcements--well-connected individuals who reassured the council members that they could comfortably support the Glendening nominees. These included Chamber of Commerce representatives who called council member James Herl, who worried that the business community was not adequately represented among the appointments, and some prominent south county residents, who called Brandywine council member William Amonett.
Council Chairman Frank Casula said that for him, the phone call from Vislosky did the trick. "Andy Vislosky called up and said he didn't want to be reconsidered for reappointment," Casula said. "Andy has been on the job for seven or eight years. Maybe he thought it was time for a change."
Casula said that some council members were still annoyed that Glendening did not consult them before naming Ann Landry Lombardi to replace Vislosky, but they had largely forgiven him. One Glendening aide speculated that the council has enjoyed the aura of intergovernmental harmony being projected this year, particularly in light of the growing hostility between Montgomery officials, whose feuds have made the papers of late.
"I think the first year has gone well," said Casula. "It's been a cooperative effort with the council."
In discussions of possible replacements for state Sen. Tommie Broadwater, convicted July 29 of illegally obtaining food stamps, one name from outside the well-known political circles surfaced last week: "Sugar" Ray Leonard, a Palmer Park native who rose to fame as the world welterweight boxing champion. Leonard has moved from Palmer Park to a home in Mitchellville, which Broadwater fought to keep within the boundaries of his 24th legislative district when lines were redrawn last year, so he could continue to represent one of the county's most famous current residents.
Informed of the rumor, Leonard's secretary immediately cast doubt upon it. "Wherever did that come from?" she asked. So did elections board officials, who said that Leonard is not currently registered to vote in the county. Leonard could not be reached for comment.
When Maryland politicos, led by Gov. Harry Hughes, held a reception last week on Capitol Hill to drum up support for ex-vice president Walter Mondale's presidential bid, Prince George's officials were conspicuously absent.
The reason is that most Prince George's elected officials these days are predicting that Sen. John Glenn, not Mondale, will carry that county in the Democratic primary, and they want to be with the winner.
Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller of Clinton says all of the state senators are for Glenn, while Del. Tim Maloney of Beltsville says things are shaping up much the same way among the delegates.
"All the statewide officials, like Hughes" and Attorney General Stephen Sachs have jumped on the Mondale bandwagon, Maloney said, "but all the grassroots people, the local elected officials, see that the people are for Glenn and they want to be where the people are."
Why does Prince George's love John Glenn? "I think he is perceived as a more moderate candidate, not as liberal as Mondale, and that is a plus in a county like ours," said Del. Gerard F. Devlin of Bowie. Devlin says that although the people he speaks with do not hold a particularly negative view of Mondale, Glenn is simply more popular in Prince George's, which has a large number of blue-collar workers and which twice voted to limit the amount of taxes the county can collect.
"Glenn is the kind of Democrat who can sweep Maryland," Devlin said. "He's an Eisenhower kind of individual who can attract a Fred Malkus a conservative state senator from southern Maryland as well as the Montgomery County liberals."
Only a few members of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee attended the Mondale affair last week and only three Prince George's elected officials were there: U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, who has not yet declared whom he will support in the Democratic primary; Del. Pauline Menes of College Park, who says she is "leaning toward Mondale at this point," and Sheriff James Aluisi, who admits he prefers Glenn because "he's a national hero."
Most political observers are watching to see what Hoyer will do. Hoyer is "between the devil and the deep blue sea," one observer said, because Mondale worked for his election in 1981 when there was a hotly contested race among Democrats to fill the unfinished term of Rep. Gladys Spellman after she suffered a severe stroke.
If Hoyer goes with Glenn instead of Mondale, it could be said he is turning his back on a friend and a political IOU. If he goes with Mondale and Glenn wins the county, Hoyer will have been out of sync with his constituents.
Miller, one of Glenn's chief supporters, says Hoyer would have the most to gain by going with Glenn. "If Steny hops on board for Mondale, it would be like being the tail of the cat; he'd be behind people like Hughes and Sen. Paul Sarbanes," Miller said. "But if he goes for Glenn, he gets headlines . . . if Glenn wins, he's a hero."
Sharon Conway, Hoyer's spokeswoman, says Hoyer simply feels it is too early to declare himself for any one candidate.
Another open question is which way the county's black leadership will go.
Although Mondale has generally attracted more support among blacks than Glenn, no Prince George's black leader has yet to embrace the former vice president's candidacy. "We want to see what each of the candidates is saying," said Wayne Curry, a lawyer and Democratic Party activist.
Meanwhile, a recent poll by Potomac Survey Research Inc. showed that Glenn is strongest in the Maryland suburbs of Washington and in Western Maryland, while Mondale is stronger than Glenn in the Baltimore metropolitan area and on the Eastern Shore.