There was a time in Annapolis when it didn't mean that much to be named Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. or Michael E. Busch. When the two men served together in the House of Delegates, from 1987 to 1995, they were just a couple of young bachelors.
Of course, Ehrlich went on to four terms in Congress and last week was inaugurated as Maryland's 60th governor, the first Republican to hold that office in more than three decades. And Busch this year became the Democratic speaker of the House, a perch from which he is already taking shots at his old friend's policy initiatives.
Last week, Busch held forth in the basement of the State House, surrounded by a gaggle of reporters who hung on his every word as he critiqued Ehrlich's budget proposal. Ehrlich swept by with an entourage on his way up to his new second-floor suite of offices.
When no reporters broke off to tail him, Ehrlich stopped, looked over his shoulder and jokingly shouted to Busch: "I remember when no one would talk to you!"
The good old days may be gone, but they are not forgotten.
Another Dig at Glendening
With the unpredictable and irascible former governor William Donald Schaefer, there usually comes a moment that leaves his audience quizzically shaking their heads, and so it was at the Jan. 15 inauguration.
Schaefer, now the Democratic comptroller, was giving the warm-up speech introducing Maryland's 60th governor, his new buddy, Ehrlich. And then, seemingly apropos of nothing, Schaefer began meandering down memory lane.
" 'Little Girls,' " he said. "That was my favorite song."
If the crowd was baffled, Annapolis insiders were not. As Schaefer sat prominently on the inaugural platform, Ehrlich's predecessor, Parris N. Glendening (D), was quietly making his way out of the State House.
The long-running feud between Schaefer and Glendening is legendary in Annapolis, with Schaefer calling Glendening everything from "a pile of manure" to "rabbit brain." This past election, Glendening retaliated by running political ads against the comptroller that criticized his tendency to call women "little girls."
Schaefer survived the challenge. Guess who's singing now?
His Number One Fan
Schaefer was often viewed as a closet Ehrlich supporter during the gubernatorial campaign. Even though he endorsed Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) and ran radio ads on her behalf, the comptroller reserved plenty of compliments for the Republican candidate and allowed many of his aides to work for Ehrlich.
Since the election, Schaefer has emerged as one of Ehrlich's biggest fans in Annapolis, even though they are members of rival parties.
"I really, really want to see him succeed," Schaefer said in an interview. "He's smart, slaps you on the back. He's one of the best political speakers you could ever find.
"I think he'll be there for eight years. That's traitorous talk, but it's what I think."
Somebody better call Isiah Leggett, the new chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party.
A 'Sign of Things to Come'?
Speaking of old governors, Glendening seemed almost happy to leave office last week.
The two-term Democrat declined an invitation to attend the outdoor portion of the inauguration, exiting quietly through the basement door of the State House after Ehrlich was officially sworn in during a brief ceremony in the Senate chamber.
"It really is a sense of relief," Glendening said minutes after he became an ex-governor. "For the past three months, I have been counting the days off -- almost as equally as Bob Ehrlich."
Glendening experienced some good fortune on his last day. As he made his final rounds through the governor's mansion, he was greeted by a smiling staff member with a parting gift: a single diamond earring.
It was the same earring that first lady Jennifer Crawford had reported losing somewhere in the mansion a month earlier, a cherished gift from her husband.
"This must be an extraordinary good sign of things to come," Glendening concluded, as he fished the jewel out of his pocket and showed it to a couple of reporters.