American Joe's night is a $100,000 triumph

December 01, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

American Joe Miedusiewski is working hard to -- any doubts that he is serious about seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 1994.

The 44-year-old state senator from East Baltimore already has taken his populist message to Cecil and Dorchester counties. He has hired aides and leased space for a campaign headquarters.

Most important, at least in political circles, he raised more than $100,000 last night with a single event.

Mr. Miedusiewski was host to more than 100 of his closest friends -- including Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak -- at a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser at Haussner's Restaurant in the heart of Highlandtown, his political backyard.

"Raising money increases your credibility among the political handicappers, and we needed seed money to show our credibility," said Mr. Miedusiewski (pronounced Med-da-SHEV-ski).

While last night's event gave him a respectable start, Mr. Miedusiewski still has a long way to go if he is to shed the label of long shot.

With 10 months left before next September's primary, two of the three previously announced Democratic candidates -- Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg of Baltimore County and Prince George's Executive Parris N. Glendening -- have each raised more than $1 million. State Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County has collected nearly $250,000.

Mr. Miedusiewski has scheduled two more fund-raisers -- one at $250 a ticket and the second at $150 a pop -- before Jan. 13, when the Maryland General Assembly begins its 90-day session. He said he expects them to generate at least another $100,000 for the campaign.

For those events, Mr. Miedusiewski said, he plans to sell tickets to the big-money party regulars who are the more traditional supporters of candidates. The group that gathered last night was made up mostly of friends -- people he calls his "intimate nucleus" of everyday working folks.

One ticket-buyer was Frank L. Hessler, vice president of Quality Brands Inc., a Baltimore wholesale beer, wine and liquor distributor. Mr. Hessler conceded that Mr. Miedusiewski is a "dark horse," at least at this point.

"Everybody who talks to me says, 'Whadduya, kidding?' " said Mr. Hessler, an old friend who belongs to the same political club as the state senator. "But it's going to take awhile.

"Why can't a Polish boy from East Baltimore become governor of the state of Maryland?" Mr. Hessler asked, urging "kielbasa in the State House."

Dr. Robert W. Henderson, a Harford County Republican who also purchased a ticket to the event, said he thinks Mr. Miedusiewski has a chance. "He does have positions, and he will fight for them," said Dr. Henderson, who owns Nutramax Laboratories Inc., a research and development company specializing in food supplements. "I hope that's what he'll do as governor. The key thing is I respect the guy."

Though Mr. Miedusiewski has represented Baltimore in the General Assembly for nearly 20 years, he is portraying himself not as a "profes

sional politician," but as a small businessman.

Until resigning three weeks ago, he was part-time manager of his family's tavern -- American Joe's Bar -- a Canton landmark.

Several of his legislative colleagues attended last night's fund-raiser, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. of Prince George's County, Sen. Habern W. Freeman of Harford County and Sen. Michael J. Collins of Baltimore County.

John Paterakis, the bakery magnate and would-be kingmaker whose company is in Mr. Miedusiewski's legislative district, also purchased a ticket, though he has contributed to at least two other Democratic gubernatorial candidates' campaigns.

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