NEW YORK -- Maryland's 100-member delegation plunged into the whirl of the Democratic Party convention yesterday hoping for a new beginning at the national level but trusting in its own elder statesman.
"We have what the country needs," said 79-year-old state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein. "We have a good team and youthful leadership."
Mr. Goldstein -- whose career as a convention delegate began 52 years ago in Chicago -- is almost certainly the most veteran convention delegate in the national party.
With his colleagues, the irrepressible Mr. Goldstein checked into the Helmsley Palace Hotel yesterday for his 13th national convention.
Almost immediately, he and the other Marylanders were swept away for the first round of convention week revelry. AT&T entertained delegates with mimes and minstrels in the hotel courtyard,where they were elegantly wined and dined and given a display of the latest in high technology.
Nevertheless, Mr. Goldstein and his colleagues were full of purpose.
"This has to be more than enjoying one another's company if we're going to keep calling ourselves a political party," said Brenda Brisbon, 40, a Baltimore lawyer who won her place here as a delegate pledged to former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas. "I hope that what we get out of it is more than one big party," she said.
Ms. Brisbon was looking for ward to a rally today led by Mr. Tsongas -- but she and the other Tsongas delegates were resigned to casting their votes for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, whose nomination has been assured for weeks.
And Mr. Goldstein was assuring everyone that Mr. Clinton's story of accomplishment would eventually catch on with the voters of America. The key, he said, will almost certainly be seizing the current forward momentum and relying on politics at the human level -- lessons he began to learn in Chicago at his first convention in 1940.
As a worker for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mr. Goldstein learned the value of contacts in high places, of hard work and of ice cream.
Then a 27-year-old member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Mr. Goldstein was recruited by Eugene Casey, a Roosevelt floor leader. His job was to soothe delegates who had concerns about giving Roosevelt an unprecedented third term in the White House.
Mr. Goldstein's partner that year was a young congressman named Albert Gore -- father of the man Mr. Clinton selected as his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee.
"We've got to try to hold these delegations in line," Mr. Casey told Mr. Goldstein, adding, "This is great history. No one has ever aspired to run for a third term, going back to George Washington."
No one fretted about the advent of an imperial presidency, Mr. Goldstein said. For some reason, he said, the Georgia delegation presented the most serious concerns.
The focus of his effort was Mrs. Herman Talmadge, wife of the then-governor. "She loved ice cream. My God, did that lady love ice cream. So, every day, man, two or three times, I got ice cream for the whole delegation."
Georgia stayed firmly in the Roosevelt camp -- and Mrs. Talmadge went home to send the young Maryland legislator a Georgia ham.
Mr. Goldstein missed the 1944 convention -- having joined the U.S. Marines during World War II. But he was back for the 1948 assembly, this one in Philadelphia.
In that year, Hubert H. Humphrey made a fiery speech on civil rights. Southern Democrats walked out and and the great Dixiecrat rebellion ensued. Mr. Goldstein says Mr. Humphrey's speech provoked no particular reaction among Marylanders at the convention. What he remembers most, he said, was a banquet of Maryland crabs he had shipped in for the occasion.
The worst of the conventions came in 1968, again in Chicago, where the party -- and the nation -- seemed on the verge of chaos. "I never saw people so emotionally disturbed with the [Vietnam] war and all these hippies, stink bombs, human feces all over the place."
That convention, he says, led directly to a long siege of Democratic Party failures. The most distressing in some ways, he said, was the election of 1988 when Michael S. Dukakis was the nominee.
"Now there was an example of a candidate having everything in his hands," Mr. Goldstein said. "You could feel it, sense it. And then after the convention everything died like a dodo bird."
Mr. Goldstein's own political career took off in 1940 -- but he never forgot Eugene Casey. Nor did Mr. Casey forget him. An engineer, investor and "down to earth practical man who owned dairy farms down in Virginia," Mr. Casey was a wealthy man. His wife, Betty, served with Mr. Goldstein on the board of trustees of Washington College, alma mater for Mr. Goldstein and Mrs. Casey. With Mrs. Casey and the college president in tow, Mr. Goldstein paid a visit on Mr. Casey.
"I asked him for $10 million for Washington College. He gave us $5 million," Mr. Goldstein said.