ANNAPOLIS — Senate Republicans yesterday struck a crippling blow to Gov. Martin O’Malley‘s plan to legalize slot machines during a special session, announcing their unanimous opposition.
Republicans, who comprise 14 of the 47 senators, said they are pulling their support because they feel Mr. O’Malley took them for granted.
“This is the one area they had counted on Republican support, but frankly, no one had talked to Republicans about getting their support,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick Republican.
Republicans said during a brief press conference yesterday that they objected to Mr. O’Malley’s plan to raise revenue instead of seeking more budget cuts during the special session tentatively planned for next month. They said they are open to considering slots during the regular session scheduled to begin in January.
The apparent miscalculation by Mr. O’Malley means he will have to focus his efforts on Democrats, who traditionally have opposed slots.
Sen. John C. Astle, Anne Arundel Democrat, said this week that he could not support legalized slots gambling because his constituents are adamantly against the idea.
Mr. Astle joined 15 other Democrats in voting against a 2005 slots plan, which passed the Senate by a 25-22 margin with the support of nine Republicans. Inaction in the House ultimately killed the bill.
Without Republican support, Mr. O’Malley will need the votes of at least 24 of 33 Democrats on what has become one of the most divisive issues in Annapolis.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, said his chamber can deliver the votes necessary to much of Mr. O’Malley’s plan, but he cannot promise to garner Democratic support for slots.
“The governor’s going to have to work in the Senate to get 24 votes for his slots package,” Mr. Miller said yesterday.
Mr. O’Malley said yesterday that he hopes everyone will be able to work together to pass his plan.
“Over the next few weeks, some in the General Assembly will stand together in smaller groups to declare what they won’t do,” he said. “But our challenge now is to find consensus and get things done before the very people we are sworn to serve and protect are harmed by obstruction and inaction in Annapolis.”
The Republican caucus was an essential voting bloc during the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The Republican governor and Mr. Miller attempted to legalize slots for four years.
The announcement yesterday marked the first visible sign of the growing fissure between Democrats and Republicans as Mr. O’Malley and his team try to find enough support to pass his budget plan.
Mr. O’Malley frequently said he counted on support from Republicans for his plan to legalize slot machines, but House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell of Southern Maryland said last week that House Republicans would not broadly support his measure.
At a press event in Howard County, Mr. O’Malley said he talks frequently with Senate Minority Whip Allan H. Kittleman, Howard Republican. But Mr. Kittleman denied that claim yesterday.
“I’ve talked to the governor twice since he came into office, once was to congratulate me on becoming minority whip, which was in early in January, the second one was in January to let me know he was firing my mother,” Mr. Kittleman said yesterday.
Mr. Kittleman’s mother, Trent, was president of the Maryland Transportation Authority under Mr. Ehrlich.
A member of the O’Malley administration said Republicans only have to call and ask for a meeting with the governor.
But a Republican who asked to remain anonymous said the governor rejected invitations to speak with Senate Republicans during the General Assembly session this year and never followed through on a promise to invite them to breakfast.