Fifth Democrat joins gubernatorial race

February 08, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Former state Del. Frank M. Conaway, a veteran West Baltimore politician who last held public office more than a decade ago, announced yesterday that he plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

Mr. Conaway becomes the only black in what is now a five-person Democratic field. He said he hopes to appeal to all Maryland voters, but pegged his chances for victory to persuading a majority of blacks to support him.

"Obviously, I'm going to get some white voters, but most are going to come from the Afro-American community," he said in a telephone interview. "When you take those numbers, about 1 million, that's enough."

According to the 1990 U.S. Census, blacks make up 1.2 million, or 24.9 percent, of the state's 4.8 million population.

Mr. Conaway, 60, said he has asked former Lt. Gov. Samuel W. Bogley to be his running mate and that Mr. Bogley was considering the offer. Mr. Bogley was elected with Harry Hughes in 1978, but was dropped from the ticket four years later.

At the heart of the discord between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Bogley was the abortion issue. Mr. Hughes favored abortion rights, while Mr. Bogley strongly opposed abortion. Mr. Bogley could not be reached for comment last night.

Mr. Conaway, a one-time insurance executive and the husband of Baltimore Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway, announced his candidacy in a press release faxed to news organizations.

In his statement, he said he has spent the past few weeks traveling around the state and "everywhere I went, people were simply appalled . . . that no viable black candidate was running for governor."

He promised a campaign focusing on joblessness, crime, schools, drug abuse and the breakdown of the traditional nuclear family.

Mr. Conaway has a lengthy political resume. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1970, then failed to win re-election four years later. In 1978 he was successful in regaining his West Baltimore delegate seat, only to lose it again four years later.

That defeat, in 1982, came after the state Insurance Division charged him and his partners in an insurance firm with mishandling more than $200,000 in premiums from clients.

Administrative charges were dropped before the election when Mr. Conaway surrendered his insurance broker's license, but the voters rejected him anyway.

Mr. Conaway later filed for bankruptcy. He has since waged two bTC more unsuccessful races, for delegate in 1986 and City Council the following year.

Mr. Conaway currently runs a travel agency and a company that sells security equipment.

As a delegate, Mr. Conaway supported tough gun control legislation, sponsored a bill that would have required doctors to post their fees in waiting rooms, and campaigned to make peppermint lemonade the state drink.

He also urged blacks to boycott the Baltimore Colts after the team traded star running back Lydell Mitchell.

Mr. Conaway joins a Democratic field that includes Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, state Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County, and state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski of Baltimore.

In response to questions yesterday, Mr. Conaway acknowledged that no members of the General Assembly are backing his candidacy.

He said he has a core campaign group of about 35 advisers and supporters, but said they had asked him not to identify them.

Asked the reason, he said, "I don't know why. When people want to help, it's not good politics to ask them why."

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