Democrats Try To Recover Ground, Money And Morale Lost On Nov. 6

November 28, 1990|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

If you had any doubts about the disarray the local Democratic Party finds itself in, you only had to attend its central committee meeting at Democratic headquarters Monday night.

The first thing you would have noticed is the room -- holes in the walls, exposed lighting fixtures, Spartan furniture.

Then you would have heard the treasurer's report: electric and phone bills unpaid, $1,100 needed for something called a "mail house."

The Democrats obviously need a new headquarters, and committee chairwoman Sue-Ellen Hantman said she's found one, but didn't sign a lease because she was not sure the party would be able to pay the rent -- $185 a month for an office and $15 a month for a meeting room in Stonehouse in Columbia.

Committee member Bill Lauer said he would be willing to "chip in if necessary" and suggested other members do the same. After some nervous laughter, they said they would.

Lauer also said he needs help moving the party's supplies from the present headquarters to the new one. They have to be out by Friday. A few people said they would be willing to help Saturday. Hantman said she will try to get an extension until then.

Committee member Ken Stevens proposed a change in the bylaws that would prohibit candidates from using party phones and headquarters to conduct campaigns prior to the primary. The bylaws already bar pre-primary endorsements.

Lauer objected, saying central committee members "are all in prime postion to be running in the next election" and would be prohibited from using the phones or headquarters if the bylaw passed. It failed.

Next, Hantman told the group to submit 12 names to the governor by Dec.

14 for three board of elections positions -- two supervisors and one alternate. The problem is there is neither time nor money to advertise for applicants.

At least four people present at the meeting have already applied. Some members of the committee wanted to interview them on the spot, but others wanted to do it later. They decided first to do the interviews Saturday, then switched to the following Saturday and finally agreed to both Saturdays.

Meanwhile, one of the candidates called for an "open" process, accusing the last committee of trying "unethically" to put people on the list.

More bad financial news: The committee hasn't paid for the food on election night. And James Kraft, an unsuccessful delegate candidate in 14B, complained that he is "personally liable" for a $5,200 direct-mail bill. He says he is getting dunned every day and wants to know what the committee is doing about paying the bill. Kraft is told "the state (Democratic Party) has the money."

County Council member C. Vernon Gray told the committee it needs to get cracking on the Democrats' annual fund-raising dinner. Committee members Lauer and Kathryn Mann say they've already begun. The news comes as a surprise to chairman Hantman and other committee members, they said.

"Who's making these decisions?" she asked.

The question has a certain irony. The party will have to answer it quickly at all levels if it hopes to recover in 1994 from the Nov. 6 debacle in which seven incumbents lost to Republican challengers.

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