Sfikas battles machine, wins Senate seat PRIMARY 1994

September 15, 1994|By Eric Siegel and JoAnna Daemmrich | Eric Siegel and JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writers

Just three years ago, Perry Sfikas, a little-known but ambitious political staffer, took on East Baltimore's once-powerful political machine to capture a seat on the City Council.

Tuesday night, he beat a veteran of the machine again -- only this time the reward was a seat in the state Senate.

An intense man who campaigned tirelessly door-to-door, Mr. Sfikas, 38, defeated four-term Del. Anthony M. DiPietro Jr. by a 2-to-1 margin in the 46th District. He will replace Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, a Canton tavern owner who gave up his seat after 20 years in an unsuccessful bid for governor.

"It is clear the political power has shifted from the oldline clubs to community organizations," said Mr. Sfikas, who has been a fixture at meetings in East Baltimore since working as an aide for Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. "What we believe really works is a well-financed grass-roots campaign. And we had a vision of where we wanted to go."

Mr. Sfikas is one of two nonincumbent Baltimore Democrats to win state Senate primaries Tuesday -- a victory that is tantamount to election in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Former Councilman Nathaniel J. McFadden beat Councilman Carl Stokes in the race for East Baltimore's 45th District seat. The self-described "sabbatical" of Sen. Nathan Irby Jr. set off a tough race that was marked by feuding political clubs and a campaign by an unknown, Clyde A. Stokes, in the name's-the-same tradition.

In other races, Sen. John A. Pica Jr. turned back a challenge by Del. Curtis S. Anderson in a bitter campaign to represent Northeast Baltimore's 43rd District, and Sen. Ralph M. Hughes held off Norman Brailey, the son of the man Mr. Hughes defeated in 1990 in the 40th District. The city's four other senators were unopposed or faced only token opposition.

Among the new faces in the House will be Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, who led a field of five for one of two seats in South Baltimore's 47A; former Del. Nathanial T. Oaks, who regained a House seat from West Baltimore's 41st; and Clarence M. Mitchell IV, scion of the illustrious civil rights family, who finished second in West Baltimore's 44th.

Mr. Mitchell promised yesterday to be a "inclusive" representative, and said his victory was in part an acknowledgement of his family's contributions.

"It signifies the respect for my family and the knowledge of what we in the family did for the community," he said.

The victories of Mr. Sfikas and Mr. Murphy will create council vacancies in the 1st and 6th districts come January's opening of the 1995 General Assembly.

Vacancies are filled by a majority council vote after a recommendation from the district's remaining two members. The vote also is preceded by a public hearing where candidates present their qualifications.

"There are about 30 people who have shown interest in that seat, easy," said 1st District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.

Particularly in East Baltimore's 1st District, the only one in the city with a white majority, some fear the appointment might become a pawn in the political struggle between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke. Ms. Clarke plans to challenge the mayor's bid for a third term next year.

"The administration is pushing for Gia Blattermann," said Mr. D'Adamo, referring to the Little Italy community activist and zoning board member. "I can tell you I'm not comfortable with her at all."

Ms. Blattermann, whose husband, Al, was punched in the jaw in front of a polling place Tuesday morning by Delegate DiPietro, said she hasn't decided whether to seek the seat.

Meanwhile, the resounding defeat of 2nd District Councilman Stokes is leading some to openly question whether he could be a viable citywide candidate. Mr. Stokes said last year that he was interested in running in 1995 to succeed Mrs. Clarke as council president. After his defeat Tuesday night, a weary-sounding Mr. Stokes said he's still considering that race.

Mr. Stokes' late entry into the state Senate race -- after two often-feuding political clubs failed to agree on a unified ticket -- has left a bitter aftertaste, said 2nd District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge. It was only one of several districts marked by campaigns that took a nasty turn. Senator Pica traded accusations with Mr. Anderson over the support of homeless advocate Bea Gaddy, and Mr. DiPietro went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to stop attention-grabbing ads by Mr. Sfikas.

Mr. Sfikas was one of two newcomers in 1991 to oust six-term Councilman Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro and five-term incumbent John A. Schaefer, both products of old East Baltimore political organizations.

He relied again this time on a well-organized campaign that spent $122,088 compared with Mr. DiPietro's $26,685 and attracted the support of business leaders, environmental activists and the Greek community.

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