LONG CONSIDERED the most formidable potential candidate for Baltimore County executive in 2002, state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell now seems inclined to seek re-election.

The senator once said he was "leaning" toward trying to succeed County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who is barred by law from seeking a third term.

But since then, Bromwell has not sent out feelers that he's interested in managing Maryland's third-largest county. And he isn't making appearances in areas where he is not well known, as one would expect of someone preparing a countywide run.

"I'm not waiting on Bromwell anymore. Nobody is waiting for Bromwell anymore," said Del. James F. Ports Jr., the Perry Hall Republican who last week formed an exploratory committee for a countywide race. "I've heard he's not [running for executive]. I didn't hear it from him, but most of the lobbyists say no, he's not in. He's going to run for Senate."

Bromwell, a Democrat, ruffled feathers last year when he tried to replace Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in an unsuccessful coup. But differences appear to have been resolved, at least in public. Bromwell has kept his powerful position as chairman of the Finance Committee, and Miller said that if Bromwell wins re-election, he'll keep a leadership role.

"He is assured of being a trusted friend and the chairman of a committee," Miller said, adding that he, too, believes Bromwell will run for re-election.

Bromwell isn't talking. But perhaps most important, his wife, Mary Pat, is said to be cool to the idea of her husband seeking a new job. The Bromwells have two young children, and the county executive position is more than full time, requiring frequent absences from the family dinner table.

County Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, pondered the race for months. But he now has a 5-week-old son. And that made the decision for him: He's out.

"There's no way anybody could be county executive and maintain family as the No. 1 priority," Kamenetz said.

Ruppersberger mingles with Townsend supporters

When about 1,200 of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's supporters gathered at Oregon Ridge over the weekend for her "fall festival," the big guy doing the introducing was none other than Ruppersberger, who not long ago was talking about running against her for governor.

Ruppersberger said people shouldn't read too much into it, saying Townsend invited him and he accepted. "I still have to keep all of my options open," said the two-term county executive.

Some Democrats took Ruppersberger's appearance as a sign that the county executive, who has also been considering a run for Congress, is increasingly disinclined to take on Townsend.

Name-calling incident heats up political rivalry

When a white elected official calls a black political rival an "Uncle Tom," is that a racist remark?

State Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele thinks so.

Steele sent out a press release last week demanding an apology from Miller for calling him that. The Senate president was explaining his opposition to a Republican redistricting plan backed by Steele as one that empowers minorities.

The GOP chief also took exception to a supposed remark by Miller that blacks who pay attention to Steele are like "the chicken listening to Colonel Sanders."

"As an African-American, I find Senator Miller's remarks, and his plantation mentality, both offensive and beneath the dignity of his office," Steele's statement said. "Surely he must understand that his racially charged insults have no place in Maryland's political discourse."

Miller said yesterday that he never used the term Uncle Tom and that his remarks were taken out of context. He said he spoke with Steele yesterday and "totally resolved" the matter. "He called me today, and we were laughing at it," Miller said.

Steele confirmed that the two had talked. "He apologized personally, and I accepted his apology," Steele said.

Cardin Web site name might indicate a change

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin received a brief flurry of attention in June when he said he was being urged to consider a race for governor in 2002.

Last week, the 3rd District Democrat's campaign sent out a press release announcing a new Web site for 2002: www.cardinfor congress.com.

Cardin spokesman Sue Sullam said the Web site wasn't a sign of a decision. "There's been no change in his plans," she said. "When he has something to say, he'll say it."