Miedusiewski's populist message marks start of his gubernatorial bid Democratic hopeful seen as dark horse

November 17, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

East Baltimore's favorite son, state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, last night declared his long-shot candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1994 to a throng of supporters who trailed him in a short parade along the cobblestones of Fells Point.

Looking more like a Norman Rockwell scene of a political rally 50 years ago than a 1990s gathering, the streets of the East Side waterfront were aglow with torchlights as his well-wishers marched from Duda's bar at Thames and Bond streets to Broadway's market square.

Mr. Miedusiewski (pronounced Med-da-SHEV-ski), a street-savvy, 44-year-old politician who started in the House of Delegates in 1975, took the podium before a crowd of several hundred supporters and called for change and accountability in government.

"The thinking is wrong, the attitude is wrong, and the behavior is wrong," Mr. Miedusiewski told the crowd. "People are demanding change. Real change will not come until we change the thinking, until we change the attitude, and until we change the behavior.

"It is clear that government's efforts to correct our problems, though well-intended, have not worked," he said.

To the cheers of the crowd -- many waving red, white and blue placards -- Mr. Miedusiewski touched on the issues he will address in his campaign, calling for reforms in public safety, education, welfare and health care.

"Our people have worked hard for their rewards. They have paid their taxes, educated their children and obeyed the law," said Mr. Miedusiewski, known as A.J. to friends and supporters. "They expect no less from others. Rewarding the wrong behavior has cost us dearly in tax dollars."

He said the populist message that is so popular with the constituents of his mostly white, working-class 46th District will play well elsewhere in the state -- particularly in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

Though he has represented Baltimore in the General Assembly for nearly 20 years, including a stint as chairman of the city delegation to the House, Mr. Miedusiewski is selling himself not as a "professional politician," but as a small businessman.

Until resigning last week, he was part-time manager of his family's tavern -- American Joe's Bar -- a Canton landmark at the corner of Luzerne and Foster avenues started by his Polish immigrant grandfather 70 years ago.

But, as one skeptic observed, "I think the world is a very different place than East Baltimore, and he's going to learn that."

Elected officials who posted appearances out of courtesy to Mr. Miedusiewski included Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., the Prince George's Democrat who is supporting Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg for governor; Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who says she is running for mayor in 1995; Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, a Baltimore County Democrat; and two House members from Mr. Miedusiewski's district, Anthony M. DiPietro Jr. and Carolyn J. Krysiak.

The third House representative from the 46th, Cornell N. Dypski, also attended and immediately threw his hat in the ring for the Senate seat, as did Baltimore City Councilman Perry Sfikas from the East Side's 1st District.

Only one of the elected officials who showed up, Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, was willing to endorse Mr. Miedusiewski. "I'm behind American Joe as long as he's in it," the Baltimore County Democrat said.

Last night's enthusiasm aside, Mr. Miedusiewski is wading into a Democratic primary in which he is the dark horse.

With 10 months to go, two of the three previously announced Democratic candidates -- Mr. Steinberg of Baltimore County and Prince George's Executive Parris N. Glendening -- have raised more than $1 million toward the estimated $3 million it will cost to run a statewide campaign.

Along with Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County, the third candidate, they're well on the way to getting campaign organizations in place.

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