Missteps aside, Young's power base solid Colleagues say senator knows his stuff, seems to have 'charmed' career

December 03, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Two nights before Thanksgiving, a high-powered group gathered in a downtown Baltimore restaurant to celebrate state Sen. Larry Young's 48th birthday.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller were there. And several prominent Annapolis lobbyists who deal with Young in their legislative battles dropped by to pay their respects.

The turnout was evidence of the clout Young enjoys in Annapolis, after nearly a quarter-century in the General Assembly.

Indeed, Young, who became the first African-American to head a legislative committee in 1983, has established a nexus of power that is almost unrivaled within the 188-member Assembly. In addition to holding key committee posts, he heads the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, maintaining a high profile on issues ranging from state contracting to civil rights.

Young's accumulation of power is all the more impressive considering his many missteps over the past dozen years.

Time and again, Young has run into trouble -- from fund-raising problems and ethical conflicts to allegedly filing a false police report and lobbying for a liquor license on behalf of a convicted felon.

In one sensational case, Young was considered a "key figure" after homicide detectives noted inconsistencies in his alibi in the 1990 murder of Marvin Moore -- a friend of the senator who was shot in the head. The murder has never been solved.

Observers who have followed Young's downs and ups marvel at the many political lives he seems to have been given.

"He is definitely charmed," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, another Baltimore Democrat. "But he is very competent and good at what he does. If he weren't competent, he wouldn't have survived some of this stuff."

Young declined to comment for these articles. But in the past, he has played down his missteps and given himself "exceptional" marks for his legislative performance.

Even his detractors acknowledge that Young works hard and knows subject matters -- such as health care -- well.

He is also a master of back-room dealing, unabashed about requesting favors, according to other legislators and lobbyists.

Sometimes the trading is discussed in public view, as in 1996, when he confronted a representative of Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell over the issue of state funding for a new downtown stadium for the team.

Before Young could support the stadium spending, he would expect the team to help renovate a community center and pay for scholarships in his poverty-ridden district, the senator said during a committee hearing.

The seventh child born to a poor Baltimore family, Young became involved in community activities in the Harlem Park neighborhood as a youngster. Community leaders noticed the quiet, civic-minded kid, and Young landed a job with the Izaak Walton League, a national environmental group.

By age 25, he had won a seat in the House of Delegates, on the ticket of former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell III. After Mitchell was convicted on corruption charges, Young took the Senate seat in 1988.

At the top of the list of his political friends is Gov. Parris N. Glendening. It was Young Glendening went to church with two days before the 1994 election, and three members of the governor's cabinet attended Young's birthday party last week.

Although that celebration was free, Young had another agenda during the event. Guests were asked how many $100-per-head tickets they would buy to a party for next summer -- a "tribute" to Sen. Larry Young.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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