Ear­lier snub is all water un­der Nice bridge now

Gover­nor of­fi­cially re­names U.S. 301 span over Po­tomac for long­time state se­na­tor who lost in Charles’ Demo­cratic pri­mary

The Calvert Recorder - - News - By PAUL LAGASSE pla­gasse@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @PaulIndyNews

Dig­ni­taries, fam­ily and friends from across Mary­land con­vened at the foot of the Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge on Satur­day af­ter­noon to watch Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) re­name the Gover­nor Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge for Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles).

The span is now called the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial/ Se­na­tor Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton Bridge, as en­acted ear­lier this year by the Ho­gan and the Gen­eral Assem­bly. The name of­fi­cially took ef­fect Oct. 1.

Satur­day’s event ap­peared to be a very pub­lic mend­ing of fences be­tween the two men in the fi­nal run-up to the gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion. Mid­dle­ton will not be on the bal­lot af­ter los­ing in this sum­mer’s Demo­cratic pri­mary.

“Mac, I know that we have not al­ways seen eye to eye on every sin­gle is­sue, but I have al­ways had tremen­dous re­spect for you over the years,” Ho­gan said dur­ing the cer­e­mony. “To­day it is my hope that any mis­un­der­stand­ings that we might have had are just water un­der the bridge.

“I can­not think of a more fit­ting trib­ute to a gen­tle­man and a leader who has ded­i­cated so much of his life to this county and to our great state, and to serv­ing oth­ers,” than by re­nam­ing the bridge for Mid­dle­ton, Ho­gan said.

The cor­dial­ity marked a change from two years pre­vi­ously, when Mid­dle­ton had been con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from a cer­e­mony held at the same spot as Ho­gan an­nounced he was au­tho­riz­ing $765 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion of a re­place­ment bridge.

Mid­dle­ton had not been in- vited to the cer­e­mony be­cause the gover­nor’s of­fice had in­ter­preted leg­is­la­tion he had drafted, which had been in­tended to off­set a cut in toll rev­enues that threat­ened fund­ing for the bridge and which the gover­nor sub­se­quently ve­toed, as hav­ing been a per­sonal at­tack on the gover­nor.

Those times ap­peared to be in the past as the two men shook hands and em­braced twice dur­ing the cer­e­mony, and had sev­eral am­i­ca­ble asides.

“I al­most came to tears” at Ho­gan’s words, Mid­dle­ton told the as­sem­bled crowd af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced by Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Pete Rahn.

With the 77-year-old bridge as a back­drop, Mid­dle­ton said that when he em­barked on his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer over three decades ear­lier, he had never imag­ined that some­day a bridge in his district might be named for him.

“I would have set­tled for a land­fill or a sewer treat­ment plant,” he joked.

“You didn’t have to do this,” Mid­dle­ton said to Ho­gan. “You could have waited un­til the [new] bridge was built. But you did it while I was still in of­fice, and that’s so very, very mean­ing­ful to me.”

Con­struc­tion of the re­place­ment bridge is sched­uled to be­gin in 2020, with com­ple­tion ex­pected three years later. Dur­ing his re­marks, Ho­gan an­nounced that the con­trac­tor pro­cure­ment process was now of­fi­cially un­der­way with the is­suance of “re­quest for qual­i­fi­ca­tions” bids from prospec­tive con­trac­tors.

Re­tir­ing South­ern Mary­land del­e­ga­tion chair Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) in­tro­duced the leg­is­la­tion call­ing for the name change dur­ing this year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion.

“Be­lieve me, I had noth­ing to do with egging Sally Jame­son on,” Mid­dle­ton told the at­ten­dees.

In his re­marks, Mid­dle­ton also al­luded to his sur­prise de­feat in the June pri­mary, when he nar­rowly lost to U.S. Air Force vet­eran and ac­coun­tant Arthur El­lis.

“When Sally an­nounced that she wasn’t go­ing to seek re-elec­tion, I thought, ‘My gosh, I was hop­ing we would go out [of of­fice] to­gether,’” Mid­dle­ton said. “Lit­tle did I know that we are go­ing to be go­ing out to­gether.”

Mid­dle­ton’s pri­mary loss rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity for the Mary­land GOP to pick up an­other se­nate seat in its ef­fort to break the Democrats’ veto-proof ma­jor­ity in that body, which has lasted for nearly a cen­tury.

Fol­low­ing El­lis’ pri­mary win, Bill Dot­son, who had been a Repub­li­can can­di­date for del­e­gate, an­nounced his de­ci­sion to switch races and run against El­lis.

Ho­gan said in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view that the tim­ing of the cere- mony was in­tended solely as a way to honor Mid­dle­ton while he was still in of­fice.

“Se­na­tor Mid­dle­ton … has worked on this for many decades and was the prime mover be­hind it,” Ho­gan said. “So rather than wait­ing for the new bridge to open, we wanted to re­name the ex­ist­ing bridge. I think it was the right thing to do be­fore the se­na­tor left of­fice. He de­served it.”

Ho­gan said that fund­ing for the bridge had been in­cluded in all four of the bud­gets passed dur­ing his ten­ure as gover­nor.

Fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony, which ended with Ho­gan and Mid­dle­ton jointly un­veil­ing a scaled-down ver­sion of the bridge’s new sign, Mid­dle­ton was of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to un­veil the real thing along­side U.S. 301, just be­fore the bridge’s toll booths.

With mem­bers of the se­na­tor’s fam­ily watch­ing, a Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion worker took Mid­dle­ton for a ride in a bucket truck to re­move the drape from the sign.

As Mid­dle­ton pre­pared to cut the line hold­ing the drape in place, a car horn honked in recog­ni­tion, and Mid­dle­ton re­turned the salute with a wave.

Mid­dle­ton told The En­ter­prise that he felt “very hon­ored” not just for the re­nam­ing of the bridge, but also for the out­pour­ing of good wishes from peo­ple who at­tended the event, many of whom he had served with for decades.

“I was hon­ored by a re­mark that [Mary­land Sec­re­tary of Health] Bobby Neall made to me, when he said, ‘You know, it’s very ap­pro­pri­ate that they name this bridge af­ter you, be­cause bridges con­nect peo­ple, and that’s what you have done through­out your po­lit­i­cal ca­reer,’” Mid­dle­ton said.

Mid­dle­ton said that while he un­der­stands the po­lit­i­cal over­tones of the re­nam­ing cer­e­mony, “I don’t look at this as a po­lit­i­cal event. This sig­ni­fies to me that it’s not about the nam­ing of the bridge, it’s about the fund­ing of the bridge.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY PAUL LAGASSE

Above left, Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R), left, Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) and Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) un­veil a scale-model of the signs for the newly re­named Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial/Se­na­tor Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton Bridge at a cer­e­mony on Satur­day. Above right, Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Pete Rahn, left, points out a fea­ture of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge to Mary­land Health Sec­re­tary Robert Neall at a cer­e­mony Satur­day af­ter­noon to re­name the bridge af­ter Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles).

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