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Local lawmakers youngest in Maryland

January 14, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - The youngest state senator and the youngest state delegate sworn into the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday have two things in common - they're Republican and they speak for Washington County.

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At 27, Sen. Alex X. Mooney also has the distinction of being the youngest Republican ever elected to the state Senate.

"I'm in a whole different decade from these people," said Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

In the Maryland House, Republican Del. Christopher B. Shank is 26, the same age his predecessor D. Bruce Poole was when he was sworn in for the first time in 1987.

"That's going to be the only parallel," said Shank, who is more conservative than Poole, a Democrat, was.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., praised the new cadre of young conservatives taking the oath of office Wednesday.

Among the conservatives, who are outnumbered by Democrats statewide, is his son, Joseph R. Bartlett, R, Frederick/Washington, 28.

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"Young people don't see any limit to what they can do," Bartlett said.

In his day, young people looked to government to solve society's problems, only realizing when they got older that government overtaxing hurts individuals, he said.

"Young people today are smarter than that. In spite of a liberal education and the liberal media, young people are registering Republican," said Roscoe Bartlett.

Bartlett and his wife, Ellen, watched their son get sworn in along with 187 other lawmakers on Wednesday.

It was family day at the State House.

Mooney invited about 80 family members and supporters.

Shank reserved seats for both his grandmothers, along with his parents and his fiancee Cindy Catudal, 25.

"They've been waiting a long time to see this," Shank said.

Veteran lawmakers said the youthfulness of the young Republicans won't hurt them, although their idealism might.

"Now they have to make the transition from campaigner to statesman," said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, who held onto her seat in November.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the newcomers will learn that compromise is needed in order to get things accomplished.

Mooney said his lack of seniority, both in age and legislative experience, has given him some measure of respect from those who recognize his accomplishment in getting elected, he said.

Mooney said being young may have its advantages.

"I can go incognito. No one bothers me," he said.

"They probably think, 'This kid, what's he know?'" said Martin Hoyt, Mooney's campaign manager. "He may be unassuming, but he's very talented."

In the halls of the Maryland State House, people have already mistaken Mooney's face for that of a staffer, he said.

Recently, a clerk who was summoning lawmakers to a senators-only luncheon asked Mooney to get the attention of a senior senator nearby.

If he had been thinking, Mooney said, he would have taken off his nametag and tried to "crash" the luncheon.

"You've gotta have fun in this business," he said.

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