ANNAPOLIS -- Anne Arundel Republican leaders yesterday selected Phillip Bissett, a 34-year-old Mayo warehouseman, from 12 candidates vying to replace the late Dr. Aris T. Allen in the House of Delegates.
Although the Republican steering committee expected a long afternoon of voting and arrived with refreshments, Mr. Bissett was chosen afteronly three rounds of secret ballots.
"I still have butterflies," he said upon receiving news of his victory. "I don't pretend I will ever fill Dr. Allen's shoes. But I will do my best to make this into a building block for our party and the community."
Dr. Allen, an 80-year-old civil rights pioneer who committed suicide Feb. 8 after learning he had terminal cancer, had mailed letters instructing the county GOP State Central committee to pick a differentsuccessor. But the 13 committee members said they avoided giving extra weight to the late delegate's notes recommending Dallas Evans, a prominent black businessman.
"Those notes had to be treated and were treated as any other recommendation we received," said committee chairwoman Laura Green Treffer.
After 40 minutes of voting behind closed doors in Annapolis, Ms. Treffer said she would deliver Mr. Bissett's name to Gov. William Donald Schaefer early tomorrow. The governor has 15 days to approve the appointment.
Mr. Bissett, a sixth-generation Edgewater resident, was considered a favorite because he was the other GOP candidate for a District 30 seat last fall. During his 18-month campaign, Mr. Bissett said, he and Dr. Allen met frequently and attended each other's fund-raisers.
Though upset at losing a chance to continue Dr. Allen's work, Mr. Evans promised to support Mr. Bissett "so the community is held together and does not divide along racial lines." Standing on the steps to the Republican headquarters, the vice president of Snow White Cleaners also looked to future campaigns and vowed: "This is not the end for Dallas Evans; this is just the beginning."
His supporters, including former U.S. Representative Marjorie Holt, who worked with Mr. Evans in Dr.Allen's campaign, said they would back the committee's choice.
The committee spent four hours Friday night interviewing candidates, among them seven who previously ran for office. Ms. Treffer described the lengthy selection process as "tough and painful at times" as she and other members remembered the quiet leadership of Dr. Allen, Maryland's first black candidate for statewide office and the General Assembly's oldest member.