NAACP forum draws anger, but few people

August 13, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

When the Baltimore County NAACP held a forum for county executive candidates Thursday, only 12 citizens showed up.

There weren't many candidates either, and those who appeared took shots at those who stayed away.

Just three of the seven county executive hopefuls appeared. On the Democratic side, there were John C. Coolahan, a former state senator and judge, and Kevin Pearl, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche. The GOP side drew only Donald W. Brewer, who is challenging incumbent Roger B. Hayden. The other GOP candidate, George Egbert, was a no-show.

"It appears Roger Hayden has already declared himself the winner of the Republican primary and you won't see him until the general election," Mr. Brewer groused.

Jim Gordon, spokesman for Mr. Hayden's re-election campaign, said he sent a letter to the NAACP chapter explaining Mr. Hayden had a prior commitment. He said he didn't know what that commitment was.

After the meeting. Mr. Coolahan criticized his two main opponents in the Democratic primary, Councilmen Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and Melvin G. Mintz.

Both candidates informed NAACP chapter officials that prior commitments prevented them from being there.

"I had a prior commitment also, a political fund-raiser for a close friend in Arbutus," said Mr. Coolahan. "But I thought it important enough to be here, present my positions, listen to what they had to say and address their concerns."

Herbert H. Lindsay, chairman of the NAACP chapter's political ,, action committee, said his sense was that most of the African-American vote would be split between Mr. Ruppersberger and Mr. Mintz. But the NAACP is politically nonpartisan and does not make endorsements, he added.

Mr. Ruppersberger said he was at an important business meeting associated with his law practice that had been scheduled two months ago. Mr. Mintz said he had to appear at a tea arranged by Herb James, the first African-American to run for the House of Delegates in the county.

"Mr. James went to a lot of trouble setting this up and I felt it necessary to go on with it," said Mr. Mintz.

Both Mr. Ruppersberger and Mr. Mintz said they contacted NAACP officials shortly after getting the invitation and informed them of the scheduling conflicts. And both candidates arranged to appear at a later date.

All the candidates said invitations were sent out late, making scheduling difficult, and Mr. Lindsay conceded that was the case.

But Mr. Lindsay nonetheless spun the theory that some candidates, mindful of the history of racial intolerance in parts of the county, might be leery of seeking open support from the black community for fear it would hurt them elsewhere.

"Absolutely not," Mr. Ruppersberger said. "The African-American community is very important to the county and very important to my candidacy."

Mr. Mintz said his record shows his commitment to the African-American community and noted he has won significant support there in past campaigns.

Mr. Ruppersberger did send his wife, Kay, to represent him. Mr. Mintz did not have a representative at the forum.

"What was the sense of sending a representative when I will appear before the group at a later date?" said Mr. Mintz.

Mr. Lindsay said he also was disappointed with the public turnout.

"We did what we could to get the word out, including through the churches in the African-American community," he said. "It think it reflects that people just aren't focused on the county executive's race yet, and additionally that there are no burning issues out there."

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