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Former senator: Taylor wasn't only loser in election

February 17, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail

The defeat of former Maryland House Speaker Casper Taylor by Republican LeRoy Myers last fall wasn't just a loss for Taylor, said former state Sen. Jack Derr.

"To me, the people of Western Maryland end up being the losers," he said.

That may seem an interesting observation for Derr, a Republican, to make. But, he said, "I look at all these kinds of things blinded to politics."

Derr called Taylor an outstanding legislator.

"He did everything he could to bring dollars and projects back to home," he said.

Any charge that Taylor was out of step with his constituents is just not true, Derr said.

Although Taylor had represented Washington County before, district lines redrawn after the last census had limited his district to Allegany County. He'd had no formidable opponents, and as speaker, he had overseen the redistricting after 2000.

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"I completely engineered the west end redistricting plan with the complete support of my Republican colleagues up here," Taylor, a Democrat, said.

But that plan was thrown out in a legal challenge in 2002, and the new district plan expanded Taylor's district east to Washington County and pitted him against Myers, a political newcomer who had already filed for a seat in a new district that would have been created under Taylor's original plan.

Although Taylor won his home base in Allegany County, he lost in Washington County.

The impact on a rural area that loses an influential voice in the General Assembly is "extremely huge," Taylor said. He said his position was "extremely valuable, especially to an area with less political assets" than its Baltimore-Washington-area counterparts.

Majority-party Democrats from those areas dominate Annapolis politics, former Carroll County Republican Del. Don Murphy said. That can be a challenge for Republicans from less populated regions of the state - such as Washington County.

All but one member of the county delegation - Del. John Donoghue of Hagerstown - are Republicans.

"It may appear to be an unfortunate scenario, but Annapolis is a money pool," said former Washington County Commissioner Richard Roulette. "Every county and their delegates and senators are trying to get a share of that money pool.

"And it's becoming increasingly difficult for our delegation when there are so many Republicans. The delegation will continue to have that difficulty as long as that scenario exists - I'm not saying it's right or it's wrong."

"We lose that imprint from Washington County as to what state policy in Annapolis is going to be" when influential incumbents leave office, said Hagerstown attorney and former District 3A Del. Bruce Poole. Whether having a Republican governor in Robert Ehrlich will help the delegation build more influence among the sea of Democrats in the capital will depend on how the delegation performs, he said.

"I think LeRoy Myers has potential" if he can work with the Democratic majority, Poole said.

Myers "has a Republican governor who's got every reason to make him look good," Murphy said.

Taylor agreed.

"I think Gov. Ehrlich should pay attention to the rural areas of the state where his base is very strong," Taylor said.

He added that the governor "doesn't pass legislation and programs through the legislature. I don't think their chance of being heard in the legislature changes one iota."

"From a legislative viewpoint it's not gonna make a lot of difference," Roulette said, but since the governor sets the budget, "hopefully, we'll have more influence in getting capital projects."

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