RIP: A final day without Mike Busch — but a photo album of remembrances

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Speaker Michael Busch when the new legislature opened Jan. 9

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

The final day of the 90-day Maryland legislature is often one of celebration and sadness, victory and defeat, joy, sorrow, relief and thanksgiving,

Bills die, bills get enacted, bills are gutted, others get greased through.

For 17 sessions since 2003, two constants on the final day were the two Mikes presiding. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr, president of the Maryland Senate whom at MarylandReporter.com we call simply Mike Miller, and Michael Erin Busch, speaker of the House of Delegates.

Now Busch is gone, dead Sunday afternoon after a series of medical problems. Until two years ago, he was a vigorous, energetic, athletic man in firm command of an unruly bunch of 140 delegates who called him “coach.”

In spring 1988, walking along Main Street at the corner of Conduit Street in Annapolis, I can recall so clearly being waved into one of the several restaurants that have occupied that site by a young freshman Republican delegate from Baltimore County named Bob Ehrlich. In their second session, he introduced me to his three freshmen buddies having lunch together — Kevin Kelly, Bruce Poole and a slightly older Democrat named Mike Busch.

The political leanings of Republican Ehrlich and Democrat Busch were closer back then. They would finally have a disastrous falling out over slots gambling when Ehrlich became governor and Busch became speaker the same year in 2003.

Former Congressman Ehrlich found the legislature where he had served disrespectful, and Busch found his former Republican friend less than competent.

MarylandReporter.com will link to standard lengthy and laudatory obituaries in multiple places. Die with your boots on in office and you get a better write up, but especially if you were as universally well-liked and respected as Busch.

Until his last two years, when illness, a liver transplant and heart bypass surgery kept him at a distance, Busch was a frequent visitor to the press pit downstairs from his own office at the State House. He was friendly, though not a friend, funny though often with barbs attached, forthcoming when it suited him, and a man of power who could exercise it lightly or with a firm fist.

Here is a gallery of photos MarylandReporter.com and others have taken of Speaker Busch over the last decade.

Receptions with food and drink abound on Sine Die, when the legislature adjourns “without a day, as the Latin phrase has it. But it will be an awkward and solemn day without Mike Busch.