Volume 13, Issue 3 ~ January 20 -26, 2005
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Department of Corrections

Because of a printing error, one page of Bay Weekly’s interview with Del. Tony O’Donnell was omitted from newsprint copies of the paper of January 13, while another page appeared twice. The interview appeared online at www.bayweekly.com in its entirety.

Here we reprint the questions and answers you should have read on page 13. We apologize to Del. O’Donnell, our readers and our advertisers: Catherine’s Draperies, the South County Home Team and the Calvert Performing Arts Series, whose ads did not run.

Bay Weekly Just how metaphoric is the name? Do you whip members into line for the party agenda?

Anthony O’Donnell I asked the state archivist Dr. Ed Papenfuse to give me some indication of the use of the terminology in American and Maryland politics. It came from old England. In fox hunting, the whipper got the wayward hounds back in the pack. Part of my job is unity and lining up the votes. In common usage, whipping is lining up in a certain direction.

Bay Weekly Do you have much whipping to do? Is there great singularity of purpose in your party now that you have the governor as your leader?

Anthony O’Donnell We have differences from time to time, but we talk them out. As leader of the party, the governor has shown great leadership and resolve, which makes it easy to support him.

Bay Weekly As whip are you also your party’s lash against the Democrats?

Anthony O’Donnell To say I lash out is the wrong characterization. Part of my job is to be a spokesman for my party, to be firm, to be principled and to be the voice of opposition. I’ve received a lot of praise for my ability to speak out eloquently and articulate a reasonable difference of opinion.

Bay Weekly Nonetheless, you have particularly sharp things to say about your Democratic colleagues.

Anthony O’Donnell There’s a lot of animosity with the current leadership in both houses of the General Assembly. I hear it in Annapolis, I hear it in District 30, I hear it around the state. Speaker Busch has been a particularly unpopular figure in my travels. People perceive him as stopping slots and hurting the state for unprincipled reasons.

Senate President Mike Miller is perceived as the guy who’s been here forever and had one of our own buildings named after him and called up judges [to influence redistricting]. He’s the one who stopped real medical malpractice reform.

I think that combined, they’re perceived as the mirror-image bookends of obstructionism.

Bay Weekly You led last year’s effort to unseat Mike Busch as speaker of the House …

Anthony O’Donnell It wasn’t a move. It was a political statement that House leadership had failed. I had no real hope that someone would step up. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t have talked to a newspaper reporter about it.

Bay Weekly The speaker hasn’t forgotten. This year, he’s back-benched you — moved you back to the row where the Southern Maryland delegation sits and out of the front of the House — as a reminder of who’s boss.

Anthony O’Donnell It’s unfortunate, and it shouldn’t be so. A strong leader is not insecure. He doesn’t have to retaliate against people for speaking out. But here, people feel you’re a threat to their authority and leadership. If you raise a voice of political dissent here, the powers that be will punish you or intimidate you. That’s unfortunate for democracy. It’s unhealthy.

I hear a lot of talk about bringing Washington-style partisanship to Annapolis. It’s not so. I see Washington as much more collegial. In Maryland, if you suggest someone else should be speaker, you get punished; you have your committee assignment changed and your seat changed.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.