Club seeks to advance GOP inroads Breakfast group helps provide party forum, recruitment device

'Political junkies'

Informal meetings serve coffee with conservative chat

September 16, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

In the early morning at an Annapolis tavern every Wednesday, coffee and fruit-filled pastries are served with a heavy dollop of conservative politics and Republican humor.

It's where a joke like "it takes a village idiot to vote for Clinton," can find a favorable audience, and people who meet an hour before their day jobs can freely discuss tax caps and crime, talk strategy or swap a joke or two.

As cream and sugar is swirled into steaming cups of coffee at the Middleton Tavern, where the Wednesday Republican Breakfast Club meets every week, members talk of hope and the belief that the city of Annapolis, and Maryland as well, are on the verge of becoming more Republican-friendly.

"These people are political junkies," said Julian Glenwood Gibbs, 68, a retired geographer and cartographer from Edgewater who started the Republican club six years ago. "Who else is going to bother to get up at 6: 30 a.m., get out and listen to a bunch of politicians speak?

"We really think things are looking a whole lot better for Republicans in the country lately, and especially Anne Arundel County. There's still hope for Annapolis yet," Gibbs said, smiling.

It began at a local Bob's Big Boy with a handful of people who were still glowing after Republican Robert R. Neall won the county executive race in 1990 and George Bush had two more years left in the White House.

"We were energized by the win, so we wanted to gear up for the next round of elections to solidify Republican gains," Gibbs said.

Over the years, the meetings evolved and spurred other clubs to start their own breakfast meetings. Republicans in Severna Park, Fort Meade and St. Mary's County also hold breakfast clubs every week.

Now, not only do the meetings serve as a forum for political thought -- albeit mostly conservative ones -- but they mobilize members by helping recruit volunteers, poll-watchers and judges for coming elections.

Today, the club is 220-people strong with about 40 active members who attend most of the meetings.

"This is one of the first groups to start a breakfast club," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party who spoke at last week's meeting. "It was a novel idea. I really encourage more and more clubs to do this because these clubs help to enthuse people."

Despite a downpour Wednesday, more than 25 members showed up to listen to Terhes talk about less taxes, getting tough on crime, the liberal media and cutting the size of government.

There was talk of Bob Dole's chances of winning the presidential election this year and of next year's efforts to help Republicans take over the Annapolis city council. And there was talk of recruiting more minorities and debunking the "myth that we're anti-women," said Helen R. Fister, a club member and chairwoman of the Republican State Central Committee for Anne Arundel County.

"It's a marvelous forum," said Fister, who joined the club five years ago. "For example, I am a grandmother who is very opposed to abortion, but I'm even more opposed to some man invading my bedroom door and telling me what to do with my body.

"We are thinking people with diverse opinions and views," Fister said. "Not a group of rabble rousers or extremists. We're all hoping people will come to see that."

Buoyed because five counties in Maryland -- Allegany, Garrett, Carroll, Frederick and Talbot -- are considered Republican territory after years of Democratic domination, and 13 counties have Republican majorities on their councils, members see hope.

Democrats used to outnumber Republicans by a 4-to-1 ratio in the state, but the numbers have improved for the GOP to 1.9-to-1, Terhes said.

Until the day Republicans outnumber Democrats, the breakfast club will continue its Wednesday meetings over coffee to plan, talk shop and hope, Gibbs said, because their would-be opponents aren't sitting idly by. Democratic breakfasts are held every Friday at O'Brien's Oyster Bar and Restaurant down the street.

"We're stronger than some people think," he said. "But probably not as strong as we'd like to be."

Pub Date: 9/16/96

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