Miller to Make Health Announcement; Sources Say He Has Cancer

On the floor of the Maryland Senate Wednesday are Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (left), President Pro Tem Katherine A. Klausmeier, President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Sen. Malcolm Augustine and Majority Leader Guy Guzzone. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he will make “an announcement” related to his health Thursday, the second day of the Maryland legislature’s 2019 session.

Sources said he is being treated for prostate cancer.

“I’m going to have an announcement tomorrow,” Miller (D-Calvert) told reporters Wednesday, unprompted, shortly after being elected Senate president for the 33rd time.

“Everybody can read about it. And I’m going to let the crazy aunt out of the closet and let her dance,” he added with a chuckle.

Quoting unnamed sources, The Daily Record reported late Wednesday that Miller, 76, is undergoing cancer treatment. A source close to Miller confirmed the news minutes later, but provided no further details, and other sources said they have been told the same.

Miller has had trouble getting around for some time due to knee, hip and back ailments. He has had surgery on his hip and knee, an aide said. Other senators said Miller is frequently in pain.

On Tuesday, he missed the Democrats’ annual pre-session rally and luncheon, a large, jovial affair where he is always an energetic, free-wheeling speaker. Colleagues said he had a stomach virus.

On Wednesday, when Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) were interviewed by the talk radio host Marc Steiner hours before the General Assembly gaveled in, Miller arrived walking slowly and using a cane. His voice was raspy and lacked a bit of its usual vitality.

“My health is very challenged,” he said, without elaborating. “But we’re going to work through it.”

The two presiding officers — often referred to as “the Mikes” — offered views on a range of issues during the interview.

Miller’s health has been the subject of speculation in Annapolis, but those who had been informed about the nature of his impending announcement weren’t talking, and most seemed unaware of what the issue was.

“Everybody’s going to have the same information [Thursday],” Miller said. “I’m here for the long haul — as long as the band keeps playing. You want to exit as good as you enter. I plan to be here for quite some time.

“It’s going to be a good, productive session, I promise.”

In Wednesday’s opening day session, Miller was the only person nominated to serve as Senate president. He is the longest-serving Senate president in Maryland history and the longest serving presiding officer in the U.S.

First elected to the House of Delegates in 1970, Miller is a formidable presence in the halls of the State House. He has been both a powerful ally and a frustrating obstacle for a succession of Maryland governors.

Asked about a proposal to create a special panel to determine whether the cost of prescription drugs in Maryland is too high, Miller quickly referenced his own health.

“Hell, I’m at the pharmacy every other day myself. I know what the cost of drugs are,” he said. “These people that all of a sudden have issues, I understand what they are. We’re going to help resolve these issues. This is the wealthiest state in the union. Everybody should have an opportunity for health insurance, and everybody should have an opportunity for affordable prescription drugs.”

Seventeen of the 47 senators elected in November are new, and Miller met with each one individually shortly after the election. He then worked on a reorganization plan to fill gaps in leadership created by a long list of retirements and incumbent defeats.

As each of the new lawmakers posed with Miller and other Senate leaders for photographs Wednesday, he ticked off the bio of each one individually and with gusto. Several he described as “future stars,” including Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), a former delegate who was 5 when Miller first won the Senate gavel. McCray seconded Miller’s nomination, which was made by Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s).

Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) was unanimously elected Senate pro tem, the chamber’s No. 2 post, putting her in position to run the chamber any time Miller is unavailable.

“I’m going to stay here until the band stops playing. These guys are the band,” Miller said, motioning to the Senate floor. “When they want me to step down, I’m gonna step down.”

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