McMillen loves his job but despairs over his impossible schedule. For instance, he had to leave the banking committee meeting early to attend the gubernatorial inauguration, which he would have to leave early to make a House roll-call vote, which would interrupt two meetings in his office, which would make him late for a 6 p.m. state Democratic function, which he would leave early to make an 8 p.m. reception for Democratic mayors at the Mayflower Hotel. It would be midnight before McMillen could finally flop into bed at his home in Crofton, an upscale Maryland bedroom community in the heart of the so-called Washington-Baltimore-Annapolis Golden Triangle.
"I've been juggling three or four things for the last few years," McMillen says, "but now I'm juggling all the elements of one job. It's hard to see one thing through to completion. Fortunately, I've never had a problem with energy. It's probably my strong point. Being single really helps, too. My social life is malleable."
Says Jerry Grant, McMillen's top aide: "Tom's favorite saying is, 'Don't say it can't be done.' For the next two years he will try to do everything." That's what you do when your mandate is only 428 votes.
At the Schaefer inauguration, McMillen makes his way through a throng of spectators. Around the halls of Congress, he carries a booklet containing the name and face of every legislator, but here in Maryland he's on his own. "Tom, glad you made it," says Joseph Curran, the state attorney general. A dozen people stop to gawk at McMillen. Curran may as well be invisible.
Inside the state capitol building, McMillen warmly greets Charlie St. Clair, a former state commander of the American Legion. "The veterans supported Tom completely," St. Clair says later. "You might say we helped his carcass get in there."
Why not the carcass of Neall, the handpicked candidate of seven-term incumbent Marjorie Holt and a seemingly natural choice for an organization with a conservative image?
Well, St. Clair explains, although McMillen is considered a classic Kennedy liberal in some circles, his support base is by no means stereotypical. He calls himself a "new-breed Democrat," which is shorthand for someone who adheres to the basic principles of the Great Society but who also pays proper homage to national defense and fiscal responsibility.
"It's really a throwback to Jack Kennedy." McMillen says later. "Jack Kennedy was not an antidefense Democrat. Jack Kennedy was not afraid to exert military force. He just preferred diplomacy first. I believe in a strong defense. But I don't think they [the Republicans] have had a coherent defense strategy."
On matters of national defense, McMillen follows the line of Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, a respected conservative Democrat. On matters fiscal, McMillen's mentor is Bradley, whom he admires unabashedly. They were New York Knick teammates in 1976-77 (McMillen's second season, Bradley's 10th and last), and the senator had been McMillen's model scholar-athlete for many years before that. When McMillen arrived late for a photo session of the Jock Caucus a few weeks ago, Bradley, claiming Red Holtzman privileges, promptly fined him $40, and McMillen obediently handed the money over to Mo Udall, the caucus treasurer.
His respect for Bradley notwithstanding, McMillen can claim his own credentials as a new-breed Democrat. He's a millionaire from several business ventures. He still owns a major block of stock in PagePlus, a paging-communications firm in Columbia, Md. True, he spent his time "running around in short pants," as Neall charged, but, as McMillen told voters over and over during the campaign, he also "knows how to meet a payroll and balance a budget."