Prince George's County's state legislators have begun prodding County Executive Wayne K. Curry to put aside his differences with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and become their quarterback in the county's efforts to win state money next year.
They want Curry to step out front like other top elected officials to help present a unified front in the annual pursuit of state money and changes in state law.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), for example, has had a meeting with Glendening scheduled for months. Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) is in the process of setting up one. Murray D. Levy (D-At Large), president of the Charles County commissioners, also has his own meeting with the governor planned.
But in an interview last week, Curry (D) said he did not intend to play a bigger role than he has, contending that Glendening has shown no interest in a meeting. "We will continue to present the county's legislative agenda as we always do, which is through the delegation," Curry said.
A day later, he appeared to change his mind, giving hope to some county legislators who were attending a breakfast fund-raiser on Tuesday for Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's). When Curry stepped to the podium to take his turn at the microphone, he waved a sheet of paper at Glendening, telling him the county's legislative priorities were scribbled on it. He then asked Glendening for a meeting on the "wish list."
Del. Barbara A. Frush (D-Prince George's), who was there, said she was encouraged by what she saw.
"It's important that the county executive sit down with the governor and present his list," Frush said. "In politics, we have to humble ourselves. We need to come with our hands out."
Curry later dismissed his overture as a stunt and said he "got up to be charming." He said he simply wanted to be on record for asking to meet with the governor.
The two men have never been close. Glendening did not embrace Curry's successful campaign in 1994 in which Curry succeeded Glendening as county executive. Curry then publicly blamed his predecessor for leaving Prince George's with a large deficit. Curry said Glendening (D) has refused to return his phone calls since Curry backed the governor's primary opponent in a reelection race last year. "I keep calling, but the guy doesn't return calls," Curry said.
Glendening spokesman Michael E. Morrill said the governor has not been avoiding Curry. "I can't begin to go where Wayne goes on this stuff," Morrill said. "The governor is very happy to sit down and meet with him as he is with all the other county executives."
The county's legislators want Curry to make good on his request for a meeting--whether it was genuine or not.
"We need [Curry]," said Del. Rushern L. Baker III (D), the chairman of the county's House delegation. "He's got to be a part of it even if he doesn't get along with Parris. What Wayne says are the priorities of the county is important. Wayne is the head of the county."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) said Curry's reluctance to take a leadership role in Annapolis does not help the county.
"Parris has never gotten along with me either," Miller said. "But I've reached out to him. I've swallowed my pride, and he's been totally open to me as president of the Senate. The county would be better off if Wayne did the same thing."
Miller said that he arranged a breakfast with the two after the election but that the governor and county executive sniped at each other throughout the meeting. "It was the worst," Miller recalled. "I had to carry the conversation. It was extremely uncomfortable."
Curry said his relationship with the governor has little to do with whether the county gets the funding it seeks from Annapolis.
"The people who get it in Annapolis are the people whose delegations have a unified agenda and get behind it," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with personality."
Annapolis lobbyist Joel D. Rozner, who was the governor's chief of staff when Glendening was county executive, said Curry may be playing it smart by working through legislative leaders who are closer to the governor.
Glendening, who still maintains a home in Prince George's, "isn't going to do anything that will hurt Prince George's County," Rozner said. "He'll work through Ulysses Currie and Rushern Baker. Wayne doesn't have a vote in Annapolis."
But veteran state Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D), chairman of the Montgomery County delegation, said the top elected official from a county also has to be involved.
Ruben said Duncan "has been a very important spokesperson for our needs, and that's important."
"He goes to bat for us," she said. "It's important to have Doug out there pitching."
Duncan said he considers a leadership role in Annapolis part of his job as county executive.
Glendening "needs to hear from the top elected officials from the county," he said. "It's important that he hears it directly from me."
Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's) said the governor hears what the county wants even if Curry does not personally deliver the message. But she said he hears the county's agenda from "eight little county executives," referring to the eight members of the Senate delegation.
"I'd like to see our county executive step up," she said. "Am I optimistic that will happen? No, I am not."
CAPTION: Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) says he does not intend to play a bigger role than he has, adding that the governor has shown no interest in a meeting.