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Name that Senator

January 26, 1999

I guess no one told them this was the General Assembly, not "To Tell the Truth."

"I am Sen. Alex Mooney."

"I am Sen. Alex Mooney."

"I AM Sen. Alex Mooney."

Yes, Mooney and his freshman cohort Joe Bartlett have taken their Laurel and Hardy act to Annapolis, where last week they gained immediate fame by switching name tags at a Chamber of Commerce banquet and pretending to be each other during the course of the evening.

The reaction of the rest of the Frederick and Washington County delegations? Not funny.

My reaction? Bravo! Encore! (Sound of flowers landing on the stage.)

I only have one question for Mooney and Bartlett: Do you need a script writer? I don't like to brag, but I can be very creative.

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My first bit of advice is that the key to proper State House high jinks is other lawmakers' personalized stationery. Steal a leaf from, say, Sen. Donald F. Munson, and type out a letter on it to the Senate bill drafter asking for legislation that would hike everyone's property tax by 507 percent, and spend the revenue on a Boonsboro-Ringgold subway for rabbits. And make sure the press gets a photocopy.

Everyone will get some good yuks out of that one.

My favorite Annapolis prank was pulled off in the early '90s by a Baltimore County delegate during the official General Assembly photograph.

The photo was taken with a camera that had, not a wide-angle lens, but a panning device that would sweep the camera in a slow, horizontal arc left to right to capture the full width of the chamber. Lawmakers were encouraged to sit as still as possible until the camera lens had passed.

The delegate in question, I believe his name was Richard Rynd, stood against the wall on the far left-hand side of the chamber. As soon as the lens moved away from him, he sprinted out into the cloakroom and entered the chamber again from a door on the extreme right, just in time to be photographed again.

So in the official Maryland group photograph of all the lawmakers that year there are two Richard Rynds, one on the far left side of the picture and another on the far right.

So there is certainly precedent for a little joking around in Annapolis. But Bartlett and Mooney's colleagues fear they will give Western Maryland a bad reputation and that they detract from the serious business of passing the laws that affect people's lives.

Indeed, I can see where it may be a trifle indecorous if the sergeant at arms has to stop the senator at the door and search him for joy buzzers and whoopee cushions every time he enters the hall.

And how great was it to see 26-year-old Del. Chris Shank in the role of elder statesman offering a gentle lecture on the art of growing up to the 27-year-old Mooney and 28-year-old Bartlett?

But I say if Minnesota has enough humor to elect a pro wrassler as governor, Maryland should have enough humor to tolerate a switch in name tags. Maybe we could even send the two a couple of those "I'm With Stupid" T-shirts and some fake vomit.

So long as you're serious at voting time, that's what counts. And would this not be a better, happier world if more people would switch name tags? The Clintoon hearings would have benefited had a couple of the "House managers" switched name tags during their factual presentation. Then the Senate could have shared a few laughs to break up their weighty discussions of thong underwear.

What if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had switched name tags? It could have been the cosmic space lark of the generation. What if Shannon Sharpe were to wear John Elway's uniform to the Super Bowl?

There is value in silliness. And you have to admit, the name tag switch is a lot more interesting than talking about vehicle emissions.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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