House Republican Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell is not just whipping up votes for his caucus these days. He's trying to foment a House revolt.
That's the only way to describe his public clamor for the overthrow of House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), whom he called a "disappointment."
O'Donnell (Calvert) has pledged to throw his caucus's 43 votes behind any Democrat who steps up to challenge Busch when the House reconvenes in January. Would O'Donnell really throw Republican support behind any of the House's 141 members? How about Del. Peter Franchot, the Takoma Park attorney who is among the most vocal slots foes?
O'Donnell's reply: "The reality is, I'm so disappointed in the leadership, that I couldn't think of a credible person who could be worse than what we have now. But I'm not sure about Peter Franchot."
Franchot is not a likely candidate, in view of the e-mail he sent to area newspapers after reading about O'Donnell's offer in Sunday's editions of the Baltimore Sun.
He called O'Donnell's comments "extraordinary for their sheer personal venom" and illustrative of "partisan-fueled attack politics that Bob Ehrlich learned from [former U.S. House speaker] Newt Gingrich and [U.S. House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay as a member of Congress, then brought to Annapolis as governor."
Further, Franchot warned that anyone who tried to take on the speaker "would be placing your hat in the ring as the favorite son of Gov. Ehrlich and the Republican right."
O'Donnell said he was not deterred by the Franchot broadside. His offer still stands, he said, even though openly cultivating a coup is a pretty bold move, considering the amount of power the speaker wields in the General Assembly's lower chamber.
Couldn't he find himself with an office in a broom closet? Or assigned to the committee in which he has the least interest? (He won't say which that is.) Or even stuck with a parking space out at the Naval Academy football stadium, forced to walk the half-mile to the State House during the darkest days of winter?
"I'm not fearful," O'Donnell said. "I spent 81/2 years in the military."
Up and Down the Dial
The days when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) offered his freewheeling opinions, including those on multiculturalism, during a twice-monthly call-in show on Baltimore talk radio have come to an end.
Ehrlich's press office has confirmed that the governor is no longer keeping his Thursday engagements with talk show host Ron Smith, widely viewed as one of his most friendly venues to vent.
No word whether canceling the segments stems from a flap over the Ehrlich administration's hiring of the host's wife, June Smith, who now heads the communications office of the state Department of Juvenile Services, where she makes $79,771 a year.Instead of imparting his wisdom to callers on WBAL, Ehrlich will be moving to a weekly morning spot with the Sports Junkies on WHFS-FM (99.1) radio.
There, the sports-loving guv will stick to making picks on NFL football games. Already, he made his first politically sound move on the show, shrewdly picking the Redskins in last weekend's season opener.
Either for Her or Against
In the span of just one hour this week, the Attorney General's Office was working with State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone -- and against her.
During the 9 o'clock hour Monday morning, Lamone sat with a lawyer from the Attorney General's Office at a defense table in a courtroom on the second floor of Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. They were there united in an effort to fend off a challenge from Ralph Nader, whose lawyer was trying to put the presidential candidate's name on the Maryland ballot.
During the 10 o'clock hour, Lamone moved upstairs to a third-floor courtroom, where she sat at the plaintiff's table with a team of private attorneys. Across the aisle, two lawyers from the Attorney General's Office were representing the State Board of Elections, whose Republican members are trying to oust Lamone, a Democratic appointee.
Lamone secured a preliminary injunction Monday, allowing her to stay in her post for now. Shortly after addressing the media outside the courthouse, she returned to the second-floor courtroom and joined her lawyer from the Attorney General's Office.
Multi-Tasking at Meetings
Board of Public Works meetings can drag on, so why not get a little work done while you're there? That apparently is what Budget Secretary Chip DiPaula Jr. was thinking last week when he was caught not once, but twice by Ehrlich banging out e-mail messages on his handheld BlackBerry.
"What did we do before these BlackBerries were out?" Ehrlich playfully asked the audience.
"The only time he does that is when I'm talking," suggested Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who, truth be told, does a lot of talking at these meetings.
DiPaula insisted that Schaefer's assertion was not true.
One Lesson Well Learned
Shortly before Ehrlich appeared outside the State House last week, word began circulating among reporters that he was going to get behind the wheel for a test drive of a GM vehicle that runs on compressed hydrogen.
After touting the new technology, the governor did strap himself in -- but on the passenger side -- as television cameras rolled.
Why not take the wheel? "No Dukakis tank pictures," Ehrlich explained, referring to the Democrats' failed 1988 presidential candidate, Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, who never quite lived down photos of him wearing a military helmet while riding in a tank.