Name: Anthony J. O’Donnell
Occupation: Delegate — District 29 (Calvert & St. Mary’s counties), House Minority Leader. “It’s a full-time job. ”
Home town: Lusby, Md.
How do you view your role in the House when there’s such a strong Democratic majority? What’s the point of being a Maryland Republican?
We are the voice of opposition, we give a venue to show that there are different ways to do things here. Very different ways. We try to be the voice of fiscal responsibility, the champions of individual rights. We’ve got a difference of political philosophies.
Do you think you make a difference in Maryland?
You know, oftentimes, people in the majority party have a harder time bucking the machine than we do, because if you do, you’re not seen as a team player. But oftentimes they’ll come up to us and say behind the scenes, “Thank you for saying what you said.” You know, we give them a voice too. The majority can’t do that. With [the Republicans], it’s about trying to maintain a singular message. We have a prohibitive minority, and so unity becomes essential. We don’t have the tools of a majority, to threaten or to promise, and so we have to operate more on a sense of purpose.... You can bomb-throw or you can try and moderate and move Maryland more towards the center. We represent hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who feel the same way, who share our views and cherish their liberties and don’t want to be coddled by the nanny state.
What is your relationship like with Speaker Busch?
I would say it’s one of mutual respect. I’ve been minority leader for seven years, and I was whip before that. We disagree on absolutely everything, but we both believe very strongly in maintaining the decorum of the House. But I can tell you, the membership of the minority is very frustrated at the institutional bullying that goes on in Annapolis.
Why does everyone need to explain their vote when you know you’re going to lose?
Because it’s part of the process. Just because you can use your authority to stifle and stymie and stuff doesn’t mean you should. Don’t be afraid of a fair and open process, to its logical conclusion.
But hey, enough about philosophy, I thought you were going to ask me about me.
If you magically became speaker of the House, what are the first three things you would do?
I would appoint all new committee chairmen and vice-chairmen and reorganize the committees.
Do you have a shadow committee chair list?
Will you talk about it?
What else would you do?
We would start towards making Maryland a business-friendly state; we would reform its truly punishing tax policy. I can tell you under my speakership, crony capitalism would be on its way out the door, and we’d of course put a stop to this bill that’s coming down the pike in the next week or so, to add more gun control.
You say that being minority leader is a full-time job. What else do you do?
I hunt. Sometimes I go fishing. I was brought up on the Susquehanna, and I am a great lover of the bay. I think I am one of the premier wild turkey hunters in the General Assembly.
Wild turkey, huh?
Not the drink, the bird.
What surprises you most about politics in Annapolis?
The simultaneous coexistence of people who have very high ideals and who have altruistic motives and people who have unbridled ambition and just personal agenda. There’s plenty of each here.
There’s word that some members of your party are planning to challenge your leadership.
We’re going to take care of the people’s business first. That’s all for after session.
You’ve survived challenges before?
The journey of life is a series of challenges.