- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 31, 2006

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland Democrats say that having a governor from their party will bring more compromise and agreement to state politics, but Republicans and political analysts think a Democrat as governor and the party’s even stronger control of the General Assembly will not result in total agreement on issues.

They also think politics will return to a style more typical of the state in recent decades: Everybody in charge is a Democrat but they don’t all get along.

Among the key issues that lawmakers must resolve in the upcoming General Assembly is a budgetary gap, pressure to accommodate growth and a 2010 deadline for Chesapeake Bay restoration that appears unlikely to be met.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democrat who in November defeated Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, appeared optimistic when he huddled recently in Annapolis with Democratic lawmakers.

“Over the last four years, there’s been a lot of drawing lines in the sand,” he said about the relationship between lawmakers and Mr. Ehrlich. “The ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ approach I don’t think is successful. What we need to focus on this session is the things we agree on.”

His remarks also include words and phrases such as “cooperation” and “respect” and “I’m here to listen. I’m here to learn.”

Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton, Charles County Democrat, said politics will have a “more positive tone than the political one-upmanship.”

Republican senators meeting recently to pick leaders said they will continue to be relevant.

“I believe that the citizens of Maryland agree with our principles,” said Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Carroll and Howard counties Republican and the chamber’s minority whip. With other losses in the November elections, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-to-1 in the Senate and nearly 3-to-1 in the House. Still, Republicans say they won’t be cowed.

“We will show respect in our tone look for opportunities for collegiality,” said incoming House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert County Republican. “But on matters of principle, we will be aggressive.”

Ron Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland at College Park, said Democrats cannot assume everybody will agree over the next four years.

He said Democrats will have to adjust to being firmly in charge again.

“What we’ve got here is the politics of realignment,” Mr. Walters said.

Zach Messitte, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said the early days of the O’Malley administration will be a time for lawmakers and bureaucrats to watch for clues about priorities.

“Part of the deal early on is to make sure everyone’s ego is in place, everyone is being paid attention to, and the requisite courtesies are being done,” he said.

The professor said Mr. O’Malley’ success could depend on Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County. Mr. Brown is an ally of House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Mr. Brown’s legislative background rare for lieutenant governors in recent administrations could make him a valuable lobbyist for Mr. O’Malley when the governor and lawmakers disagree.

Analysts give Mr. O’Malley credit for appointing as Cabinet members former state bureaucrats who know how to navigate state politics.

However, voters shouldn’t expect four years of clear political sailing.

On the curb outside the State House in Annapolis, a new bumper sticker appeared. It read: “Don’t blame me. I voted for EHRLICH.”

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