List for Cummings seat: It all comes down to two Candidates: The selection process for the 44th District's House of Delegates vacancy is approaching its final cut. The remaining hopefuls are a Baltimore caterer and the head of the city's NAACP chapter.

The Political Game

June 18, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

AND THEN there were two.

The long, drawn-out process to fill the 44th District's House of Delegates seat vacated by Elijah E. Cummings in April is nearing an end.

The small crowd that applied for Cummings' West Baltimore seat, now that he has moved up to Congress, has been whittled down to Elaine R. McCloud, a Baltimore caterer and city Democratic Central Committee member, and Rodney A. Orange Sr., head of the city's NAACP chapter.

So sayeth the district leader, state Sen. Larry Young, who added that a final decision will be made by central committee members from the 44th in the next two weeks. (Of course, since Young controls the majority of those five votes, he would know authoritatively.)

Until Thursday, the list included Jacquelyn D. Cornish, executive director of the nonprofit Druid Heights Community Development Corp.

But that night, the date of Young's gala fund-raiser at the Baltimore Brewing Co., Cornish notified the central committee that she was taking herself out of the running.

"I was very torn, but my family and commitment to the community won," said Cornish, a mother of three who entered the race late in the game.

Up to that point, she had survived the mysterious winnowing process that had narrowed the field to three candidates from at least seven.

During an interview at his fund-raiser, Young named Orange, McCloud and Cornish as the finalists. The others -- including Verna L. Jones, a West Baltimore housing activist, and Arlene B. Fisher, president of the Lafayette Square Community Association -- apparently did not make the first cut, for whatever reason.

Even T. Michael Scales, chairman of the 44th's central committee members and a close associate of the senator, did not make it.

"He's going to get a job," Young explained.

"As a liquor board inspector?" came the follow-up question, suggesting that Scales might replace Marion P. Turner, the senator's patronage appointment who was fired last month at his direction and has sued in an attempt to get her job back.

"No, a better one than that," Young said.

Maybe at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation? Perhaps working for former Del. John D. Jefferies, another Young ally who was appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening as an assistant secretary in the department?

Young just smiled.

In recent weeks, there have been a couple of closed-door meetings about the seat, but it remains unclear who will get it.

Cummings has been adamant about McCloud, 42, who owns the Baltimore Catering Co. and once was a legislative aide for him. She also has been Cummings' vote on the central committee.

McCloud emerged as the "consensus candidate" early in the process, after Young rejected Traci K. Miller, a 28-year-old city prosecutor who impressed many in the political establishment with her bid for the 7th District congressional seat won by Cummings.

During the congressional primary, Cummings all but named Miller when asked at a candidates forum what type of person he would like to see succeed him in the legislature.

Miller initially indicated her interest in Cummings' seat by sending the central committee her resume. But she became disenchanted with the process and did not show up to be interviewed.

Although Cummings has said he would like to see a woman replace him in the House of Delegates, he also has mentioned that Orange would be a good replacement.

Orange, 53, is no stranger to politics and has ties to Young. In 1975, he was a student intern to Young, then a delegate, in Annapolis.

Orange also ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 1982 and for a 6th District City Council seat in 1991.

Orange said at the fund-raiser that Young told him he was "at the top of the list."

But, as they say, it ain't over till it's over.

Reporter returns to state politics beat

How about a good ol' clubhouse welcome back to Sun reporter C. Fraser Smith, who is returning to cover state politics after a couple-year hiatus, most recently writing for the paper's Perspective section.

Beginning next week, Smith will share this space with your correspondent. He will muse on state political machinations here every other week.

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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