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Readers' editorial - 2/12/05

February 12, 2005

What puzzlement comes barreling up to Washington County via the excellent in-depth Herald- Mail coverage of the first few weeks of the current session of the Maryland General Assembly.

First of all, we saw Democrat Michael Busch re-elected by his party to continue service in the elevated role of Speaker of the House of Delegates. As both Democrats and Republicans know, Busch was elected a delegate by fewer than 1,000 votes and is vulnerable to defeat the next time around. Strange that his colleagues would vest the great power available to a speaker in such a frail reed.

Maybe they look forward to some sort of personal vendetta with the Republican governor and hope to enjoy the rumpus. Maybe they think he will lead a new fight against Gov. Robert Ehrlich's gaming initiative to get the state out of the pawnshop.

It is well known that Busch has "personal," not constituent, reasons for his fight against slot machines, but it maybe impossible for him to break down our state's horse tradition and the betting that goes with it. Apparently, Busch wants to be sure those who bet do it at a track window rather than a machine. Not a lot of difference to most. The price of this moral technicality comes down to higher fees and more taxation. Put another way, it means citizens lose a gamble - the don't-gamble choice over the no-choice taxation route.

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How nice for grown-up citizens to have such a thoughtful parent to keep them from machines instead of betting windows when gambling at racetracks. So, this daddy to us all gets to be the big man in the House of Delegates, where he can cut off debate, play games with the rules and confront a no-tax governor.

Then, right here in Hagerstown, we have Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, who told a reporter he is not a politician. One wonders what a man who holds a delegate seat and stands for re-election should be called. If he is not a politician, what does he call himself?

Donoghue, who, in early days of this session has voted the Democrat party line, also tells the press he votes his own convictions. His constituents must be wondering why he is not voting their convictions.

Perhaps Donoghue has forgotten that his voters sent him to Annapolis to represent their views, not his own personal notions. Both he and Busch appear to espouse the idea that "what works for me personally is best for my voters."

Finally, the early session days brought out explanations that insult the intelligence of any Marylander out of high school. Surely, the Democrats did not override a basketful of the governor's vetoes because they want him to look like a failure a short 30 months from now. Of course not.

Surely, those folks did not even consider blocking Ehrlich to ensure failure to keep his election promises when voters look at his record in 2006. No one is trying to keep Maryland in a financial bind in order to replace Ehrlich with tax-loving Democrat Doug Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, or Baltimore's rock-band-playing Mayor Martin O'Malley. Banish the thought!

Why in the world would a legislator of one party hurt a governor of the other party? Would any unkind person believe the Democrat leadership in the state assembly would put muscle into fighting every meaningful Ehrlich proposal for grimy political reasons?

Nonsense.

Maybe all these Democrats are non-politicians, as Donoghue claims to be. Maybe Maryland should thank its lucky stars that it has had folks such as these and a raft of Democrat governors to make it one of the most highly taxed states in the union.

In putting an uppity Republican governor in his place, the Democrat leadership can take uncooperative voters to the woodshed. Marylanders can be taught that theirs is a "blue" state in the political sense, and it jolly well better stay that way.

So much for sarcasm.

In great sincerity, this columnist makes apology to the fine citizens of Washington County who carry the Democrat label. They are good people who want the best for our state. Indeed, Republicans likely could not be elected without their help. They were among the voters who put Ehrlich in office and did their best to keep George Bush in the White House.

Hopefully, they will bring their talents to bear in getting a little more common sense - and a lot less partisanship - into the state legislature. The people of this "red" county make clear their understanding that politics is supposed to be something better than gang warfare masquerading as leadership.

Dee Mayberry is a Boonsboro resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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