It was billed as a legislative strategy session for all seven Montgomery County state senators, who are eager to take home prized public-works projects to benefit their districts.
But when Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Bethesda Republican, showed up today for the closed-door meeting in the office of Sen. Sidney Kramer, he learned the event was for Democrats only.
In a display of political muscle rare for the normally collegial Montgomery Senate delegation, Denis was politely ejected by his six Democratic colleagues.
"I'm angry. I'm shocked. I really can't believe it happened," an ashen Denis said tonight.
At least two Montgomery senators called the awkward ejection of Denis an extremely embarassing moment for the delegation.
"I would have let Howie stay," said one senator, who asked not to be identified by name.
Denis was asked to leave by Sen. Laurence Levitan, who had asked for the meeting so he could discuss political issues surrounding the county's highly publicized quest for $40 million in state money for new roads and schools. As chairman of the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee, Levitan, a Potomac Democrat, is the pivotal player in Montgomery's effort to win state aid for those badly needed projects.
"If it was a normal strategy session, then obviously Howie would have been included," Levitan said tonight in a brief interview on the Senate floor. But, he stressed, the meeting touched on strictly "Democratic stuff," including "the current county executive and the expected county executive to be."
One participant said the meeting focused in part on potential backlash against Kramer, an announced candidate for county executive, if he and other Montgomery legislators don't win any state money for roads and schools. "We talked about political perceptions about bringing home the bacon -- for Gilchrist, Kramer, Levitan, all of us." the senator said. Charles W. Gilchrist, Montgomery's county executive, is leaving office next year.
Denis, a frequent ally of his colleagues on local issues, got some revenge against Levitan tonight. He exercised his prerogative under Senate rules and delayed consideration of one of Levitan's pet bills, a measure to repeal a state tax break for Maryland wineries.