Sunday, December 15, 2002

ANNAPOLIS If it hadn’t been for a leg injury, Michael E. Busch might have pursued a career in football. Instead, the Anne Arundel County Democrat went into politics and is counting the days until he takes over as speaker of the House of Delegates.
Mr. Busch was a record-setting running back at Temple University in 1969, when the Dallas Cowboys sent him a letter telling him that “you are being considered by our ball club as one of our top draft choices.”
The Cowboys didn’t know his career was already over, and Mr. Busch makes light of the letter, which hangs in his office in Annapolis.
“They probably wrote about 400 of those letters,” he said.
Mr. Busch will not be elected speaker until the 2002 legislative session begins Jan. 8, but House Democrats chose him for the top post at a Dec. 2 caucus, and his selection by the full House is only a formality.
The speaker’s post opened up when Allegany County Democrat Casper R. Taylor Jr. was defeated in his re-election bid by Republican LeRoy Myers last month.
Mr. Busch recalls he had left an election-night party in Annapolis when he got a call from Tom Lewis, Mr. Taylor’s top aide.
“He said, ‘Mike, you’d better come back here. Cas is in trouble.’”
Mr. Busch was the favorite to take over the speaker’s job if Mr. Taylor left, and he moved quickly to solidify his position.
After a telephone call to Mr. Taylor to tell him he would seek the job if Mr. Myers’ lead held up, Mr. Busch called other Democratic House leaders to line up their support.
“I stopped making calls at 1:30 in the morning,” he said. “I got up at 6, had a cup of coffee and was back in the office by 7:15.”
The outcome was never in doubt.
Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, Baltimore Democrat and the only challenger, said he threw his name into the mix because “my belief is that any person assuming that role ought to have a challenge.” But Mr. Rawlings quickly abandoned his quest and endorsed Mr. Busch.
Fellow lawmakers say Mr. Busch was able to lock up the job quickly because legislators like and trust him.
“He’s very even-tempered and very fair. He treats everyone with dignity,” said Delegate John P. Donahue, Washington Democrat. “He may not agree with everyone all of the time, and he certainly lets you know it, but he lets you know it in a way that doesn’t offend you.”
Democrats and Republicans often use the same words to describe Mr. Busch consensus builder, good listener, laid-back, approachable.
Delegate Kumar P. Barve, Montgomery Democrat, said Mr. Busch displays the same competitiveness in politics that he showed on the football field, but doesn’t carry the competition into personal relationships.
Politically, Mr. Busch is usually described as a moderate.
“He’s not a wild-eyed liberal, but you wouldn’t call him a conservative either,” said state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, Howard County Republican. “Most of all, he’s a pragmatist.”
Mr. Busch considers himself a progressive Democrat. He remembers two pictures on his grandparents’ mantle Jesus and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both sets of grandparents “believed that Roosevelt gave average people a piece of the American dream,” he said. “I really believe government is there to give people an opportunity.”

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