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Smackdown in the Senate

The Maryland Senate, until today, had rejected only one of several hundred nominees put forward by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for state boards and commissions.

The count now stands at six. By lopsided votes, the Democrat-led chamber rejected five more Ehrlich picks, including a former Democratic state delegate from Baltimore nominated for the Morgan State University Board of Regents and four nominees for the St. Mary's County liquor board.

At the urging of Baltimore senators, the chamber voted 32-7 to reject the nomination of Frank D. Boston Jr. to the Morgan State board.

"This has a lot to do with Baltimore city politics," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) said in an interview after the vote. "It's complicated."

Boston had twice unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Democratic senators, including a 1998 race against then-Sen. Clarence W. Blount (Baltimore), who had been dubbed "the conscience of the Senate" by his colleagues. In that race, Boston filed a lawsuit challenging Blount's residency. Blount eventually prevailed but only after accumulating hefty legal bills, Miller said.

Ehrlich had nominated Boston to replace U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on the university board, a move that Democrats found "unacceptable," Miller said.

Boston also became a source of controversy last year when Ehrlich appointed him to a seat on the State Board of Elections that is reserved for Democrats. After Democrats balked, Ehrlich was forced to withdraw Boston's nomination to end a standoff with Miller over dozens of nominees to other panels whose appointments were on hold.

In addition, the Senate yesterday voted 34-6 to reject four nominees to the St. Mary's County Alcohol Beverage Board. The appointments were shot down at the urging of Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's), who said Ehrlich had broken with past tradition and not consulted him about the posts.

"I want these to be rejected," Dyson said yesteday on the Senate floor.

The rejected nominees were Nathaniel W. Lawrence Sr., Thomas C. Bennett, Lynn M. Canty and Albert R. Babcock.
Ehrlich apparently was not pleased by yesterday's turn of events.

"It's purely political," said Gregory Massoni, Ehrlich's deputy director of communications. "It's Mike Miller playing his games again."

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  March 14, 2006; 2:37 PM ET
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