Gov. Harry Hughes, whose landslide reelection proved his 1978 election was no fluke, said today he expects to become more active in national affairs during his next term.
Relaxed and confident after a long night of celebration in Baltimore, Maryland's Democratic governor said he will remain a methodical executive but will heighten his profile both in the statehouse and nationally through the National Governors' Association.
At the same time, Hughes said that one day after winning a second and final term as governor, he is not preparing to run for federal office, despite speculation that he might seek a U.S. Senate seat in four years and staff suggestions -- of a more joking nature -- that he is good vice presidential material.
Hughes, who will be 56 next week, claimed 62 percent of the state's vote in Tuesday's election and led a Democratic sweep of the state. Among those who called to congratulate him, he said, were former President Jimmy Carter and former vice president Walter F. Mondale. The latter stumped the state several weeks ago for Hughes and the Democrats.
"I have only thought about this election and the next four years," said Hughes, rocking back in his desk chair, pulling at the sleeves of his white turtleneck shirt as he began the first of seven or eight back-to-back interviews. "I have not given any thought to what I'd do at the end of this term. I will be the leader for four years and will be aggressive in promoting what we think needs to be done."
Hughes, who awoke early this morning and breakfasted on an omelet with his wife Pat and his mother-in-law before coming to work at 9:30 a.m., said he was elated by his margin of victory. Although his victory had seemed a foregone conclusion, Hughes said he had been "nervous" about the outcome. "During a campaign you're like a defendant in court, with everyone shooting at you," he said. "You keep expecting something to happen that's going to be adverse."
In looking toward a second term, Hughes said he intends to be less involved in the details of running state government -- he was criticized initially for spending much of his first two years closeted in his office immersed in such detail -- and will focus more on guiding state policy.
The governor said, as he did throughout his campaign against Republican challenger Robert A. Pascal, that he expects Reaganomics to continue to be the prime issue for him and the incoming legislature.
"The biggest question will be in the budget. It doesn't appear there will be any largess for discretionary funding of new programs," he said, adding that it was possible that the state's static revenue picture would remain bleak, forcing departments to make new cutbacks.
Because he has spent so much time campaigning in the last few months, Hughes said he has not yet prepared a legislative package for submission to the General Assembly when it convenes in January -- a week before his inauguration.
However, he said, he will propose creation of a Department of Labor and Training, as he promised to the powerful labor unions that for the most part supported his reelection bid. He also expects to support bills to bring the state's drunk driving law into compliance with new guidelines for qualifying for federal funds.
In addition, he may introduce several economic development measures and resubmit gun control legislation -- a favorite topic of his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect J. Joseph Curran Jr. -- despite rejection of such measures during the last session.
Hughes also is considering suggestions that he create a state conservation corps, tighten insanity plea laws and extend the added unemployment insurance benefits that were adopted in a special session of the legislature this summer.
The most controversial state issues -- providing adequate monies formass transit, ensuring equal financing of local education systems, new taxes -- are not expected to be issues this year.
Hughes' two most immediate tasks are reshuffling his cabinet -- his effective Secretary of Human Resources, Kalman (Buzzy) Hettleman, is leaving Dec. 31, and a few others may do likewise -- and learning the new faces in the legislature. "Replacing Buzzy," said one Hughes aide, "is like replacing God. Politically he's savvy and he's been able to walk the advocacy line very carefully."
When the General Assembly convenes, as many as 48 new faces will join the 141-member House of Delegates and 16 new state senators will join 31 more-experienced colleagues. While the turnover of about one-third is considered normal -- even low, for a year when all seats were reshuffled for redistricting -- it also means that much of the first session will be devoted to acquainting new members with legislative processes.
In the House of Delegates, Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin said he expects few difficulties because the House leadership -- its committee chairmen and vice chairmen -- made it through the elections for the most part intact.
Cardin will have to replace Del. Torrey Brown, chairman of the environmental matters committee, who was defeated in the primary. The front-runner for the position appears to be Del. Larry Young (D--Baltimore), who, if selected, would provide the city and the black caucus with a committee chairman. Baltimore City's delegation will have 13 blacks out of 27 members, making the caucus an important political force.
Cardin, who was the dominant figure in the legislature last year, said Tuesday's elections will not dramatically alter the moderate philosophical disposition of the General Assembly.
However, the elections, coupled with redistricting, produced a slight alteration in the House's political alignment -- with urban areas giving up representation to the large-growth outer suburbs. For instance, Baltimore City lost six delegate seats, while Harford, Howard and Charles counties picked up six.
Cardin said he did not expect this realignment to have much effect -- at least next year -- when issues that cause an urban-rural split, such as mass transit and population-based state-aid formulas, will not be under consideration.
"Basically, Maryland is a state that's going to be dominated by Democrats -- a lopsidedly Democratic state leadership that will be planning to set a course that is more traditional than the one Reagan has chosen, one that looks to government to help people and looks to government to help solve problems," said Cardin. He added, "The 1983 session will be dominated by economic issues and criminal justice issues -- prisons, juvenile facilities -- and jobs."
Across the statehouse corridor from Cardin, the state senate will have more serious initial skirmishes. Sen. Melvin A. (Mickey) Steinberg (D-Baltimore County) is challenging Senate President James Clark (D-Howard County) for that body's leadership and, by extension, all other leadership positions in the Senate. That fight has been building for months, and no resolution is expected before the Democratic caucus on Dec. 6.
Clark, who in mid-summer seemed to be the loser, appeared to gain most from Tuesday's elections, with several victors in close contests committed to him. Clark also appears on the verge of wresting support from Steinberg in the Baltimore City delegation, the most numerous and powerful bloc of Senate votes. As one city senator put it, "Several of us told Mickey last month that we had problems with the way he had gone about things. He was cutting too many deals, too many ways."
In the end, however, the next four years will be preparation for the next round of state elections in 1986, as prospective gubernatorial candidates line up to replace Hughes and others focus on the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Charles McC. Mathias. Among those -- all Democrats -- interested in the posts are Cardin; Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, who like Hughes was reelected in a landslide; Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson, and Congressmen Michael Barnes and Steny Hoyer.
The Republicans, who unsuccessfully put forward their two best contenders for Tuesday's election, are, in the words of their state party chairman Allan C. Levey -- who lost his own race for state senate -- "back to square one."