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Were O'Malley's feel-good remarks about GOP serious?

May 13, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

Right now, Republican members of Washington County's Maryland General Assembly delegation should be asking themselves these two questions:

Did Gov. Martin O'Malley mean what he said when he was here last Thursday? And, even if the governor is serious about having no animosity toward the local Republicans who've opposed him, will his allies in the legislature feel the same way?

O'Malley and some of his cabinet officers were here last week as part of the state's "Capital for a Day" program. His appearance was key, if only to give local officials a chance to demonstrate to him and his closest advisers the importance of the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown campus.

O'Malley made what I interpreted as conciliatory comments during an interview with The Herald-Mail the day he was here.

In part, he said that the action that took funding from the USM-H campus was not in retaliation for local Republicans' opposition to his activities, especially those taken during last year's special session.

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(Some background: Republicans opposed the package of taxes O'Malley and Democratic leaders sought during last year's special session and sued to void the actions taken then. More recently, they have pressed the governor to issue new guidelines for executions, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lethal injection is a permissible method of execution.)

O'Malley said that paying Republicans back for their opposition is "not the way we work ..."

Those who opposed him are "not at their core bad people." O'Malley said they were just "doing their job as best they see it at a time when, you know, polarization and partisanship were in fashion ... "

The closest the governor came to scolding them was when he said "life's too short to squander your time in public office by operating that way ... "

O'Malley did praise state Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, for his vote to repeal the computer-services taxes, saying that Munson's action "most probably did" affect the decision to restore most of the USM-H funding cuts.

Here are my concerns:

Even if O'Malley was determined to punish House Minority Whip - and anti-special session lawsuit plaintiff - Chris Shank, he probably wouldn't tell the newspapers that, because doing so would allow Shank and company to portray themselves as underdogs.

And even if O'Malley isn't determined to squash Shank, what about others in the General Assembly? At this point there is no upside for Democrats to help Shank with the concerns of his district.

And there might be some Democrats who figure that making Shank's life difficult, legislatively speaking, might be a good way to curry favor with the governor.

In 1922, a man named Jimmy Cox wrote a song titled "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out."

The song describes a man who has fallen on hard times and finds that his former friends no longer want anything to do with him.

Those who've been around for a while remember when Del. Bruce Poole clashed with Del. Cas Taylor and fell out of favor for a time. I worry that history might repeat itself.

Why should the Republicans care? Because the governor has the power to help if he's so motivated. I was out of town during the governor's visit, but if I had been here, I would have asked him what help he could give to the people of Hancock.

The Rayloc plant there closed this year, idling more than 200. That blow came just three years after Fleetwood Travel Trailers shut down. Somewhere there must be a company that can take advantage of those workers' skills.

But getting such a firm here might require some incentives from the state, such as special financing or some help with negotiating state and local regulations.

Those laid-off workers ought to be a top priority for the delegation and it's my hunch that the governor might be persuaded to help, but could not be intimidated into doing so.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers

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