What's next for Bruce Poole?

September 21, 1997


Staff Writer

For Maryland Del. D. Bruce Poole, the question becomes, what now?

Spurned in his attempt to be nominated to a Washington County Circuit Court judgeship, the 38-year-old Beaver Creek Democrat said he is now starting to assess his future in the public arena.

His choices are several and he insisted none is being ruled out. Options include running for re-election next year to his legislative seat, a possible congressional candidacy at some point, another try at a judgeship, or even retirement from the public arena.

Poole said he will take his time before making a determination.

"No good legislator or good judge makes a decision rashly, and I'm not about to do that," said Poole, a 10-year veteran of the General Assembly.


He said before last week he wasn't thinking about any decision. For the past six months Poole said he has been thinking about one career move - seeking an appointment to the Circuit Court bench.

"I think it would be silly to abruptly turn channels and make a clear-cut path in less than a week," he said.

Although the governor appoints judges, the county's Judicial Nominating Commission nominates a list of potential candidates. A candidate must receive seven votes from the 13-member panel of lawyers and lay people to be nominated.

The commission interviewed Poole and two other candidates last Wednesday, but gave only one - Hagerstown attorney and U.S. Magistrate Judge Don Beachley - enough votes to be sent to Gov. Parris N. Glendening. County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr., a Republican, was previously nominated by the commission and is still considered a candidate for the $96,000-a-year position.

Though he cautioned supporters by telling them his nomination was a not a sure thing, Poole said he was nonetheless surprised and disappointed by the decision. He said there were members of the commission who believed his place in public service was remaining in the General Assembly, not on the bench.

"I still respect the process. I don't agree with the decision, but that's the process. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose," he said.

Poole said the panel also questioned him about the legal dispute that was highlighted by the bitter breakup of a law firm in which he was a partner five years ago with George "Chip" Snyder. But he said he doesn't believe that had a significant bearing on the decision.

Commission Chairman Paul Mellott said he could not comment on the panel's decision because of its policy to never speak publicly about interviews and deliberations. The secrecy allows commission members to be more candid in their discussions and to ask tough questions of the candidates, he said.

"Everything we say inside that room is supposed to stay in that room," Mellott said.

Two other commission members contacted by The Herald-Mail were also mum about the decision not to nominate Poole.

"I do think it was a shame he wasn't chosen, but I really can't disclose (why)," said Circuit Court Law Master Dan Dwyer, a member of the commission.

Poole has had his ups and downs before. A rapid rise through the House of Delegates' leadership after being elected in 1986 was culminated in 1990 when, at the age of 31, he became the youngest lawmaker in state history to reach the post of majority leader.

But a State House power struggle led to his ouster as majority leader in 1993, and in 1994 he won re-election by 76 votes, the second-narrowest margin of victory in the General Assembly that year.

Since that election, Poole took on many causes popular with his constituency, such as being a leader in the opposition to public funding for two professional football stadiums.

Over the years Poole's name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. But county Central Committee Treasurer Terry L. Smith said it is probably too late for a serious run next year because a successful congressional candidacy takes several years to organize.

Smith said Poole does have several things in his favor if he ever does decide to run for Congress, such as name recognition that goes beyond the county line, and a keen sense of the legislative and political processes.

As a minus, Smith pointed to Poole's alliance with former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was widely unpopular in this part of the state, and support of gun-control legislation.

"That's his biggest baggage," Smith said.

Smith believes said the most likely course for Poole would be to run for re-election next year in his legislative district, which covers the southern and much of the eastern part of the county. From there Poole can think about Congress, he said.

And some political observers pointed out that Poole could still wind up with a judgeship post, especially if Glendening decides he would like to choose from a list of candidates larger than the current two names.

"If he's looking for a particular name, he can still send back the list" to the nominating commission, said Democratic Central Committee member Martin A. Radinsky.

But several observers said they have trouble buying the suggestion that Poole could retire from public service.

"I don't think so. I think Bruce is of the mind that he enjoys it and it's a public service," Smith said.

As for Poole, he said his intention right now is getting out into his district before going back to Annapolis when the General Assembly starts its annual legislative session in January.

He said he wants to meet with voters, supporters and others before plotting his future.

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