It's a plump little number, a cholesterol bomb in a bun that looks gross but is actually somewhat tasty -- if you're a Democrat, that is.

It's the Bob Ehrlich -- not the Republican governor-elect -- but the meal: a hot dog, wrapped in bologna and smothered in cheese. The new members of the Democratic leadership named this beefy concoction for the governor-to-be, and then, at their first official meeting, devoured him -- something they couldn't do in the November election.

The feast came last Friday as the Democrats talked with reporters about how they'll work with Ehrlich despite their differences, and as they introduced the party's new leaders. They also wanted to make it clear that even though they lost the governor's mansion for the first time in 36 years, their party is not dead.

"This is a new day for us," said Isiah "Ike" Leggett, the new chairman of the state party. "The party is doing very well in Maryland, and we're quite optimistic."

To prove the point, the group provided some statistics that showed how Democrats dominated other area races in places such as Prince George's, Howard and Montgomery counties, where they won almost every state and local race. They also gained a seat in the state Senate, which party spokesman David Paulson didn't hesitate to point out on a fact sheet he distributed. Overall, the Democrats have a 131-57 advantage in the General Assembly.

Paulson did not draw attention to the fact that the party actually lost eight seats in the House of Delegates -- including the seat of Del. Casper R. Taylor (D-Allegany), the former speaker of the House who was ousted in the November election.

Leggett, a former Montgomery County Council member, said the top issues in the upcoming legislative session are going to be "the budget, budget, budget." But he offered few details about how the party was going to handle the $1.3 billion deficit that some blame on overspending by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).

In addition to Leggett, the party recently elected Del. Sue Hecht (D-Frederick), who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate, as vice chair. Keiffer Jackson Mitchell Jr., a Baltimore City Council member, is the second vice chair. Karren Pope-Onwukwe, a law professor at the University of Maryland, is the party's secretary, and Gary Gensler, who served in the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration, is the new treasurer.

Inauguration Guests

The incoming governor has been slyly boasting that, in addition to the leading citizens of Arbutus -- Ehrlich's blue-collar Baltimore County hometown -- he'll likely draw some Washington big shots to his inauguration on Wednesday, including fellow congressmen and some friends in the Bush administration.

Officially, Ehrlich has been mum when pressed to name names, telling reporters to stay tuned. But a source within the Ehrlich camp -- and we mean a really good source -- reports that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has RSVPed in the affirmative.

Rumsfeld and Ehrlich are both Republican hawks, but more pertinently, they're also fellow Princeton University alumni.

In one of those hallowed but weird Ivy League traditions, the captain of the Princeton football team is annually given the honor of helping to organize the campus reunion of the class that graduated 25 years earlier.

In 1979, Ehrlich was the football captain, which is how he first came to rub elbows with Rumsfeld, a leader of the Class of 1954.

The good-old-boy network kicked in like clockwork years later, when Ehrlich was elected to Congress in 1994. As soon as Ehrlich arrived in Washington, Rumsfeld offered to escort his fellow Tiger around town so he could meet some power players in GOP circles.

Paying for the Parties

Dying to know which corporations, lobbyists and other political fat cats are writing checks to subsidize the cost of Ehrlich's inaugural parties? Don't worry -- Ehrlich promises you'll get to find out soon enough.

Ehrlich's supporters have vowed to raise as much as $1 million to pay for the festivities leading up to his inauguration ceremony. Richard E. Hug, Ehrlich's campaign finance chairman, predicted he'd have little problem hitting the seven-figure mark. Apparently, there's no shortage of special interests trying to curry favor with the new governor.

Although campaign contributions are a matter of public record, there is no state or federal law requiring Ehrlich to divulge details of who gives what to his inaugural committee, which has been set up as a separate nonprofit corporation.

Open-government advocates have been urging Ehrlich to cough up the names of donors voluntarily, as well as the size of their contributions. Last week, in response to a question, Ehrlich said for the first time that he would do just that. "Of course," he promised.

Ehrlich wouldn't commit to a specific date, but said he'll release the juicy details sometime after Inauguration Day.

Glendening Introduces Dean Glendening hosted a little get-to-know-you reception for Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean at the governor's mansion in Annapolis on Monday night. Dean, the governor of Vermont, developed a friendship with Glendening while both served in leadership roles in the National Governors Association and the Democratic Governors' Association.

More than 100 public officials, lobbyists and other Maryland "opinion makers" were invited to the soiree, according to Glendening spokesman Charles Porcari. Porcari declined to say whether Glendening's offer to introduce Dean to political Maryland constitutes an official endorsement or whether Glendening, who leaves office next week, is keeping his own options open.

Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.