Barnes and Hall seeking to co-chair state Democratic Party

July 24, 1992|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Former Congressman Michael D. Barnes and Vera P. Hall, vice president of the Baltimore City Council, have joined forces in an effort to become co-chairmen of the Maryland Democratic Party, hoping to avoid the squabbles that marked the tenure of outgoing Chairman Nathan Landow.

"I'm very pleased about it," said Mr. Barnes. The Montgomery Countian said he initiated the co-chair proposal and expects it to be approved Saturday when top Democrats convene in Annapolis to select an interim chairman.

L "I think it will help to unite the party," Mr. Barnes added.

Well, not quite.

Democrats from Prince George's County and Southern Maryland are opposing the so-called "dream team," saying the unprecedented co-chair proposal is confusing, is against party rules and would leave them out.

"I've got great reservations about it," said Gerard E. Evans, chairman of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee, who said that party rules call for only one chairman and that a co-chairmanship would be confusing.

"Who's going to speak?" he asked.

Mr. Evans, who considered running for the top post when Mr. Lan- dow stepped down Tuesday, says he supports Ms. Hall.

Meanwhile, Gerald Donovan, chairman of the Calvert County Democratic Central Committee, is pushing Calvert County developer Denny Murray for party chairman and is picking up support from the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland. "I think he would unify the whole party," said Mr. Donovan.

Other candidates are expected to emerge Saturday when the Democrats' 55-member executive committee is scheduled to name a replacement to Mr. Landow, a Washington-

area real estate developer who is resigning to work as a fund-raiser for the Clinton-Gore presidential ticket.

The new party chairman would serve until the full, 348-member Central Committee ratifies a permanent chairman, most likely after the November election.

Party sources said Mr. Barnes, who was suggested for party chair by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, broached the idea of a co-chairmanship with Ms. Hall, the party's vice chair. Party insiders said Ms. Hall, who represents Baltimore's 5th Councilmanic District and was bypassed for the party chair in the 1980s, was angered that she had apparently been brushed aside again this year in favor Mr. Barnes. But she did not want to challenge Mr. Barnes and reportedly was ready to resign from the party hierarchy

when Mr. Barnes called her to suggest they share the post.

"I didn't want to see [Ms. Hall's resignation]," said Mr. Barnes.

Ms. Hall was traveling last night and could not be reached.

Mr. Barnes dismissed claims that a co-chairmanship would be illegal, saying lawyers familiar with party rules advised him that "the executive does have the power to do this."

The former five-term congressman is now a lawyer in Washington. He left the House after making an unsuccessful bid for the 1986 Democratic Senate nomination captured by Barbara A. Mikulski,

Mr. Barnes said the co-chairmanship has the support of Mr. Schaefer and Democrats in Maryland's congressional delegation.

"I'm finding very strong support for this team," said Mr. Barnes.

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