Novice surprised by her top vote for Democratic post

September 18, 1990|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

In April, when Eileen Sweeney launched her political campaign, she never dreamed that she would record the third-highest vote tally of any candidate running in the city's legislative 43rd District.

And she did it running for the lowest political office on the ballot -- state central committee.

Unofficial returns showed Sweeney, a lawyer, finished first out of 10 candidates in the race for the district's five-member Democratic State Central Committee.

In all, 88 candidates in Baltimore vied for the 45 seats on the Democratic party committee -- five seats in each of the nine legislative districts.

And, while the position may seem lowly, committee members in both the Democratic and Republican parties play important roles. They form party policy and rules and pick replacements for elected officials who leave office before their terms expire.

Sweeney's 5,063 votes were surpassed only by the 5,675 votes received by first-term incumbent Del. Ann Marie Doory and the 5,258 garnered by six-term incumbent Del. Gerald J. Curran. She received more votes than two-term incumbent state Sen. John A. Pica Jr.

"I was quite surprised to finish with the number of votes I did, especially since I wasn't on a ticket," says Sweeney, who ran an independent campaign.

"A lot of it, I think, had to do with the door-to-door campaign I ran and with all the volunteers who helped me cover the polling places on election day," Sweeney says.

Sweeney says she didn't know at this point if her impressive showing would mean a campaign for higher office in the future.

Regina Buker was one of Sweeney's opponents in the 43rd. She, too, ran an exhaustive door-to-door campaign, but fell 57 votes out of the running.

Buker ran on a ticket with four other candidates, including three incumbents, who were supported by the dominant political organizations in the district. She was the only one on the ticket for central committee who lost.

Disappointed at coming so close, Buker still says she enjoyed herself and labeled the campaign "a good learning experience."

"I'd do it all over again in a minute," says Buker, an administrative aide to Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd. "I had a lot of volunteers who, like me, were totally new to the political process and I feel good about bringing these people into contact with the process."

Wayne Sherman had hoped to parlay his well-known volunteer work in the Morrell Park community into a seat on the central committee in the 47th District.

But to do that, Sherman had to go against the powerful Stonewall Democratic Club, to which he belongs.

Stonewall's five-member ticket for the central committee won. Sherman came in sixth, more than 1,000 votes behind the fifth-place finisher.

"It's tough to go against the organization which had a lot more money and volunteers than I did," says Sherman, adding that this was the first election he hadn't worked for Stonewall.

Sherman, a baggage supervisor for USAir and the mascot for the Baltimore Blast, says he will continue his community work and go back to working with Stonewall "to re-elect the three incumbent council members from the district next year."

Barbara Hoffman, a two-term state senator from the 42nd District, received more than 7,100 votes, the most cast for a state central committee seat in any legislative district in the city.

"I think a lot of people, not realizing I was unopposed for the Senate and that my name would not appear on the ballot for Senate, kept searching for my name until they found it," says Hoffman.

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