- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — George C. Edwards, Garrett County’s representative in Annapolis for the past 21 years, won a closely contested race yesterday for the top Republican position in the House of Delegates.

Mr. Edwards was elected minority leader over Delegate Wade Kach of Baltimore County at a caucus of Republican House members. The vote was taken by secret ballot, and Mr. Edwards would not discuss his margin of victory. He said, however, that the battle between him and Mr. Kach was good for the party.

Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell of Calvert County was elected minority whip with Mr. Edwards, defeating Delegate Adelaide “Addie” C. Eckardt of Dorchester County, who ran with Mr. Kach.

Despite the hard-fought campaign, Mr. Edwards said the caucus unanimously supported a motion that he and Mr. O’Donnell be elected by acclimation.

“We are leaving this room united as a caucus. We have no disagreements,” he said.

Mr. Kach and Miss Eckardt left the meeting without talking to reporters and were not immediately available for comment.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said Republicans were fortunate to have “two very strong candidates” running for minority leader.

“George Edwards is universally liked by everyone in both parties,” he said.

Mr. Ehrlich said Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kach are both his friends, and that he did not try to influence the outcome.

The positions became vacant when Mr. Ehrlich appointed the former minority leader and whip — Delegates Alfred Redmer of Baltimore County and Kenneth Schisler of Talbot County — to positions in his administration.

Mr. Edwards said his goal as minority leader will be to help build the Republican Party and get the caucus lined up behind Mr. Ehrlich’s legislative programs.

“We also have to work with the other side,” he said. “[Democrats] still run the legislature.”

The state Republican Party has sharply criticized Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch of Anne Arundel County for helping defeat Mr. Ehrlich’s slot-machine bill during the 2003 legislative session.

Mr. O’Donnell, an outspoken critic of many Democratic policies, said it traditionally has been the role of the Republican whip to serve as the attack dog and “to articulate the party’s positions.”

But he said he and Mr. Edwards like and respect Mr. Busch, and the nature of the relationship will depend on how Mr. Busch deals with the Ehrlich administration and the governor’s future programs.

“My floor work will be tempered by the fact that this leadership team will pick its battles very carefully,” he said.

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