Shift to GOP Congress Should Not Hurt Democratic-Leaning Maryland|
By Catherine Matacic
Capital News Service
Friday, Nov. 8, 2002
WASHINGTON - Maryland's congressional delegation was shifted to the
back bench in Tuesday's elections, which saw the state sending more
Democrats to Washington while the nation was handing control of the House
and Senate to the GOP.
The shift cost the state a powerful Senate committee chairmanship, among
other things. But political experts say the state still may not have lost
much national influence.
"The combination of powerful committee assignments and the fact that the
governor-elect has a relationship with the president means Maryland will
probably do fine," said Jonathan Allen, a political reporter for
As the first Republican governor in Maryland in 36 years, Gov.-elect
Robert Ehrlich has the ear of both the Bush administration and his former
House colleagues, and will be able to use that clout to win money for the state,
political analysts said.
"The election was a groundswell, and we hope to tap into that not only in
Annapolis but in Washington," said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell, who added
Ehrlich's top priorities for federal funding would be transportation,
education and health.
Ehrlich will be helped by his friendships with the president and with
legislators like House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner,
R- Ohio, and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
"If (Ehrlich) came calling to the capital, I'm sure he would get a good
reception," said Derek Willis, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly.
Ehrlich's successor might not be as lucky.
Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, won Ehrlich's
old 2nd District, which had been in Republican hands for two decades.
And Democrat Chris Van Hollen unseated eight-term Republican Rep. Connie
Morella in the 8th District.
Maryland's House delegation, which had been split evenly, now has six
Democrats and four Republicans.
The freshmen Democrats might find slim pickings once they get to the
"Neither Chris Van Hollen nor Dutch Ruppersberger will be bringing much
pork back to Maryland," said Montgomery Journal columnist Blair Lee. "We are
going to be back benchers . . . pretty much excluded from the halls of
Laura Van Tosh, a Democratic activist in Montgomery County, worries that
the candidates will not be able to deliver on campaign promises.
"They had bold ideas that were palatable to the public, but I don't know
how realistic they were going to be," she said. "It's difficult to know if
there's going to be a benefit when the sea (in the House) is so much deeper
But bigger changes are taking place in the Senate, where Republicans have
wrested the majority from the Democrats, and taken committee chairmanships
with them, said Allen.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who co-sponsored this year's corporate
responsibility act, will no longer chair the Senate Banking, Housing and
Urban Affairs Committee, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., will have to give
up her chairmanship of the appropriations subcommittee for veterans affairs
But both Mikulski and Sarbanes will be ranking minority members of their
committees, Allen said.
And Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, retains a seat on the House
Another potential windfall for Maryland is the race for House minority
leader. If current Democratic whip Nancy Pelosi moves up to the job, Hoyer
has a good shot at whip, which would make him the No. 2 Democrat in the
"If there's a lot of horse trading, (Hoyer) would definitely be able to
make a case for steering money to Maryland," Willis said.
But Allen said it's almost impossible at this point to put a money value
on the shift in power.
"I'm not so sure how much things are going to change," Allen said. "To
some extent, that remains to be seen."
2002 University of Maryland College of
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