Democrats' 'resurgence' claimed in elections Baltimore, Worcester victories touted

November 09, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Maryland Democrats touted "the party's resurgence" yesterday after wins Tuesday in a handful of local, off-year races, including the Baltimore elections in which they were returned to every office.

In recent years, the Democrats have seen their one-time 3-1 edge over the Republicans in statewide voter registrations cut to less than 2-1, lost a handful of state legislative seats, and came within 5,993 votes of having their candidate for governor lose last year.

So Tuesday's wins -- no matter how small or unexpected -- gave them reason to beat the drum.

"The silver lining to all this stuff that's happened is that the Republican Party has finally awakened the sleeping giant," said Mary Jo Neville, vice chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. "After 25 years of working, they made a few inroads and Democrats said, 'Oh my God, we got to run a race in the general.' "

In rural Worcester County on the Eastern Shore, Democrats could point to clear success: They reclaimed at least four of five county commissioner seats that the GOP had won in a 1990 sweep.

In the race for the fifth seat, 40 votes separated the incumbent Republican from the Democratic challenger and the outcome will turn on 116 absentee ballots that are to be counted today.

In Worcester, Democrat James L. Purnell made history by becoming the first black county commissioner elected in the county's 253-year history -- after a court battle forced commissioners to be elected by district, instead of countywide, for the first time.

Democrats also were pleased that control of Baltimore City Hall -- the mayor, council president, comptroller and 18 council seats -- remained in their control.

The Maryland Republican Party dumped more than $10,000 into city races -- with particular focus on a 6th District Council seat where a GOP candidate was believed to have a shot -- only to be soundly defeated in all of them.

"They put out the biggest effort they've ever put out in Baltimore City and have absolutely nothing to show for it," Ms. Neville said.

Joyce Lyons Terhes, chair of the state GOP, was disappointed with the showing in Baltimore, but said the party would continue its fight there where Republicans are outnumbered 8-1 citywide.

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