take me with him to see him try cases,
labor cases, all over the country. When
he became an administrative law judge, I
would see him try those cases. He was very
union-oriented. He came from the George
Meany school of thought. He rarely ruled
in favor of management except once when
management was a group of nuns running
a nursing home in Taunton, Massachusetts.
I mean, his three absolutes were the
Catholic Church, the Democratic Party and
the Baltimore Orioles.
Four absolutes: and the AFL-CIO.
Q: At least he got to see the Orioles at a
good time: late ‘60s, early ‘70s.
A: Well, he grew up in Washington. He was
originally a Washington Senators fan.
As a youngster, he would take me to
court. He would take me to charter board
meetings. I got an earlier indoctrination
into that. He would also do a lot of pro
bono work for citizens who were fighting
developers. The first case I remember he
took me to, there was a woods behind our
house in Chillum, Maryland; they were
trying to tear it down for a bakery. So he had
all of us kids protest outside the courthouse
while he went in and tried the zoning case.
Then when Arthur Bremer shot George
Wallace, the presidential candidate, that
occurred in our county, and my father was
county attorney. So Bremer was tried in
our county courthouse. Two of my sisters
and I, he took us every day to the Bremer
trial. It was in courtroom 202 in the old
courthouse. The judge was Ralph W.
Powers Jr. He was not a Lance Ito. He got
the whole trial done in five days. We sat
right behind Mr. Bremer. He would turn
around and smile and wave at us. I always
thought he was a little insane but that’s
not what the court found.
Q: So during all of this, with your
grandfather and your father, at what
point did you think you might want to be
A: I’ll tell you when it hit me. I was 17. A group
of neighbors came to me and asked if I would
help them fight a development proposal.
They wanted to build a nursing home right
around the corner from us, on a lot that
should’ve been residential. They didn’t have
enough money for a lawyer, but you didn’t
need to be a lawyer to go before the zoning
hearing examiner. So at age 17, I tried the
case for them. I called witnesses, cross-
examined their witnesses, put on evidence,
researched the law. And the zoning hearing
examiner ruled in our favor. I remember
a few days before Christmas Eve after we
won the victory, we were sitting in the house
having dinner and the doorbell rang. There
were a group of neighbors who had taken
up a collection—I think they had $500 they
raised—to thank me. It was sort of a Jimmy
Stewart moment, you know? And I thought,
“Wow, this is something I would love to do.”
Q: So was it the victory or the Jimmy
Stewart moment that won you over?
A: Both. It was the sense of satisfaction of
winning the case, and knowing you could
do something that meant that much to the
community. Today, 30 years later, I drive
down Montgomery Road and there’s a
single-family house sitting on that lot; and
I always get a smile on my face.
Q: When did you get involved in politics?
A: When I was 12, I got a job working for
the United States Senate as an intern.
I had a neighbor who worked for Jim
Pearson of Kansas and I worked for him
in the summer of 1970 and ’ 71. It was a
great experience. I think I was the youngest
salaried employee of Congress that year.
I remember going to the chief clerk of
the Senate, who was my patron, and he
was asked, “Is there anything in the law
that prevents the Senate from putting a
12-year-old on the payroll?” And he said,
“No.” It was a wonderful job. The Senator
used to come in at 7: 30 in the morning,
which is when our carpool arrived, and
take me downstairs while he had breakfast
in the cafeteria with people like Senators
George Aiken and Mike Mansfield; and
to just sit there as a 12-year-old boy and
watch that was a fabulous experience.
Q: Who did you unseat?
A: Andrew O. “Sunny” Mothershead,
who was chairman of the capitol budget
subcommittee. He was a cigar-smoking,
old school pol. The day I went into the
legislature, The Washington Post ran a
profile written by David Maraniss, who
went on to win the Pulitzer Prize [for
national reporting] and wrote a lot of
books, including the Clinton book and the
new Obama book. He used to cover us. I
know David pretty well. And he wrote an
article profiling me and Fred Malkus. Fred
was the oldest member of the legislature
and I was the youngest.
Q: If you were just 22 when you went
into the legislature, when did you go to
A: A couple of years later. My dad said to
me, “It’s fine you’re in politics but you can’t