Democrats pick Opara to succeed Murphy Lawyer will take the oath of office Tuesday

January 07, 1996|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,SUN STAFF

Clay C. Opara will be sworn in Tuesday as the newest delegate in the General Assembly after the 41st Democratic Central Committee met yesterday and appointed him to the position.

Mr. Opara's selection by the five-member committee to replace Del. Margaret H. Murphy long has been considered a formality. The appointment of the 30-year-old lawyer was brokered by the political clubs that control the district's Democratic committee. So apprised, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has set aside time Tuesday to give Mr. Opara the oath of office.

No one had told Otis E. Lee Sr., a retired railroad accountant, that Mr. Opara had been designated as Mrs. Murphy's heir apparent. So Mr. Lee, who has run unsuccessfully for public office, came to the meeting at the Garrison Boulevard library branch hoping that he would win the committee's nod.

He didn't. The committee unanimously appointed Mr. Opara, a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Maryland Law School. The son of a longtime Baltimore lawyer with whom he shares office space on Biddle Street, Mr. Opara has a general legal practice.

Though Mr. Opara has never held political office, he has been active for three years in Mrs. Murphy's political club, the Vanguard Democratic Organization, an apprenticeship that led to his appointment yesterday. State Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the leader of the West Baltimore district's other dominant political organization, the Five in Five Democratic Club, acceded to Mr. Opara, and the deal was done.

Still, Mr. Blount, who sits on the district's Democratic Central Committee, used yesterday's forum to give warning to his newest colleague. First, he told the young man that if he expected to accomplish anything in Annapolis, he had better plan to work closely with the senator and the district's two other delegates.

Secondly, he admonished Mr. Opara to prepare himself for an ordeal in three years when the voters will have their first chance to pass judgment on him in an election.

"It's going to be hell, fire and brimstone," Mr. Blount said, hoping that Mr. Opara will have the "strength, fortitude and support" to hold onto the seat.

Mr. Opara tried to assure the senator. "When it comes to competition," he said, "I don't think there's anyone who can beat me."

It would be hard to imagine the woman he is succeeding ever making such a statement. A former public school administrator, Mrs. Murphy, 65, is retiring after 17 years in the General Assembly because of ill health.

Mrs. Murphy remains chairwoman of the district's Democratic Central Committee and chief executive officer of Vanguard.

General Assembly hearing schedule

To receive by fax a copy of the Maryland General Assembly hearing schedule for the week, dial Sunfax at (410) 332-6123. Enter the four-digit information number 5959.

To receive the schedule each week automatically, call Laura Barnhardt at (410) 332-6893.

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