GOP leadership scrum could be over next week

Senate and House are poised to make their choices on Monday and Tuesday

Friday, Dec. 15, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Republican lawmakers say the sharp intramural wars of words will end next week when the state Senate and House of Delegates caucuses select new leaders.

‘‘Families have discussions around the dinner table, but at the end of the day we’re still family. And that’s how I view this,” said House Minority Whip Anthony O’Donnell, who wants a promotion to minority leader.

The GOP is trying to chart a new course in the wake of the drubbing it took Nov. 7, losing the governor’s mansion as well as six seats in the House.

On the Senate side, the vote is going into overtime. The lawmakers spent nine hours trying to pick a new minority leader on Dec. 5, but the caucus remains deadlocked 7-7 deciding whether to pick Senate Minority Whip Andrew P. Harris or Sen. David R. Brinkley as minority leader.

‘‘As far as I know, we’re still trying to resolve the issue,” said Harris (R-Dist. 7) of Cockeysville.

Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market said the party would continue to fight for smaller government and lower taxes. ‘‘The principles won’t change no matter who the leader is,” he said.

The Senate votes Monday; the House on Tuesday.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) said the Senate contest is a race between ‘‘two competent people.”

He said he would remain on the sidelines unless asked to weigh in. ‘‘I view it as a no-loss proposition. I would lend whatever I could to the healing process if there needs to be one, and I suspect there will need to be one because egos get bruised,” he said.

He said Republicans have two choices. One would be to compare and contrast GOP views to the Democrats on a daily basis.

‘‘The other is to be the acquiescent, indulgent opposition. To get your crumbs, get in the back room, get a bill signed and get on a conference committee,” Ehrlich said. ‘‘I would hope given the philosophical orientation of the majority today that we pick A, not B.”

But it wasn’t always that way for Ehrlich, who recalled Wednesday enjoying a close relationship as a young delegate with former House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D).

‘‘I didn’t see a whole lot of push with Republicans fighting a Clay Mitchell,” he said.

In the House, the minority leader and whip run as a ticket. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby is joined by whip candidate Christopher Shank (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown.

Wade A. Kach (R-Dist. 5B) of Cockeysville opposes O’Donnell for leader. Michael D. Smigiel (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton is running for whip.

Kach predicted victory.

‘‘I think that the debate is we failed. When you fail, you need to figure out why you failed, and from there you need to determine whether we need to change direction,” he said. ‘‘I think it’s pretty obvious we need to change direction.”

‘‘You don’t take anything for granted. This is an internal caucus matter. ... I feel confident we have strong support,” O’Donnell said.