Black advocates target Thomas, Yeager seats

January 02, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

A recently formed advocacy group seeking economic and political power for blacks in Howard County wants to unseat two incumbents who the group says haven't done enough to promote the black agenda.

The Rev. John L. Wright, co-founder and president of the Alliance of Citizens for Responsive Leadership that was formed in November, said Thursday his group opposes state Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, D-13, and Del. Virginia Thomas, D-13A, who they believe have not represented blacks.

"They should not be re-elected because they've been there for so long and have not been accountable to all of the constituents in their district," he said. "They haven't done much for us.

"In the history of Howard County, there has never been an African-American elected to the Senate or the House in Annapolis," he said. "There should be a change.

"It's time for an African-American to represent 13 and 13A."

Mr. Yeager, a three-term legislator first elected in 1982, couldn't be reached for comment.

But Ms. Thomas, also a three-term legislator first elected in 1982, said, "I'm really shocked."

"I don't know where he's coming from, quite frankly," she said. "He needs to look at my track record."

Mr. Wright and attorney Charles J. Ware, co-founder and vice president for the alliance, and other members of the advocacy group were to attend a press conference yesterday morning at the minister's church, the First Baptist Church of Guilford, to announce their plans.

The weeks-old alliance was established to improve economic and political conditions for the county's 22,000 black residents, who represent 11.8 percent of the county's 187,328 population.

The county has only one elected black official, Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat.

The group plans to keep a close watch on local politicians to make them sensitive to the needs of all citizens, including those members see as locked out of the system. It plans to confront such issues as affordable housing, crime, unemployment and AIDS.

Ms. Thomas, who may challenge Mr. Yeager for his Senate seat, said she's disappointed by the charge.

"I think Reverend Wright, to put it kindly, is misinformed," she said.

She said she helped to raise funds for an African museum in Oakland Manor and supported the creation of the county's human rights commission and legislation to help the homeless, the unemployed and the environment.

She also said she is working on low-income housing in Guilford Gardens, near Mr. Wright's church on Oakland Mills Road.

Ms. Thomas added that she helped push for two seats in District 13A. Doing so, she said, enabled two African-Americans, Frank S. Turner and longtime political activist Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, to announce plans to run for the House of Delegates in next September's primary.

"What I did was open up opportunities for African-Americans to run against me," Ms. Thomas said.

But Mr. Wright, the outgoing head of the Maryland NAACP, said both incumbents have distanced themselves from the black community and its struggles.

It is possible to defeat them, Mr. Wright said.

"I know people who've lost elections, because of the words, 'It's time for a change,' " he said.

Mr. Wright said he has black candidates in mind to replace the incumbents but preferred not to name them.

The alliance also plans to oppose former County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, who is planning to run for the House seat in newly created District 12B, Mr. Wright said.

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