Harriet's List backs 6 Democrats Money: The abortion-rights PAC has selected six women to support in this year's General Assembly races and is looking for more candidates to endorse. The fund raising begins next week.

The Political Game

June 23, 1998|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

THE SISTERHOOD'S back in the swing of political things this year.

Next Tuesday, Harriet's List, the political action committee for Democratic women who favor abortion rights, is holding its first fund-raiser this election year for six candidates it's endorsing.

In 1994, the PAC's first year out, Harriet's List did surprisingly well for a fledgling grass-roots group, and organizers are hoping for a replay this time -- with higher dollar amounts for more candidates.

Last time, Harriet's List raised more than $124,000 and supported 21 women for various offices in both the primary and general elections. In the 1994 general, the PAC went 11 for 15 (73 percent) in its candidate picks. This was at a time when Republicans made gains in Maryland, even though GOP voters are outnumbered by Democratic ones by almost 2-to-1.

"We'd love to support another 21 or more," said Sayra Wells Meyerhoff, chairwoman of the PAC, who will play host to the fund-raiser at her Baltimore County home. "We're looking for women candidates from every county."

So far, the group is backing women from Baltimore City and Baltimore, Harford, Carroll and Montgomery counties in legislative races.

"This is a very important election to us," Meyerhoff said. "Certainly at the gubernatorial level it's going to be critical because the next governor will redistrict the entire state -- and that will impact on women's issues and women candidates for years to come."

The PAC supports candidates in a variety of ways, but its most important form is financial. It is modeled after EMILY's List, the highly successful federal-level PAC that has raised millions of dollars for women candidates nationwide. That PAC's name is an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast ("It makes the dough rise").

Overall in 1994, Harriet's List raised about $76,000 from its 650 members and "bundled" another $47,900 for the 21 candidates it supported.

Under the bundling scheme -- an old favorite on Capitol Hill -- members of an organization are asked to match their contributions to the PAC with checks directly to candidates recommended by the group.

At next week's fund-raiser, Meyerhoff is asking members to make donations of at least $100 to two of the six women recommended so far.

While the PAC was set up to support nonincumbents, it is supporting three women who already hold office -- one who is attempting to step up from the House of Delegates to the Maryland Senate and two who were appointed to their House seats and have never stood for election.

Two of the six are running for seats in politically volatile and increasingly conservative Harford County, where much of the delegation to the General Assembly will turn over this year. They are:

Del. Mary Louise Preis, a Democratic two-term member of the House, who is seeking the 34th District state Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. David R. Craig, who is making a bid for county executive. (In the primary, Craig faces Del. James M. Harkins, the Republican from Harford's 35th District, who has opted not to run again for the House.)

In the general election, Preis will very likely face Del. Nancy Jacobs, a conservative Republican who opposes abortion and would like to be Craig's GOP successor.

Mary-Dulany James, a lawyer and Harford County civic activist, who is running for one of the two delegate seats from the 34th opened by the exits of Preis and Jacobs. (If Del. Rose Mary Hatem Bonsack decides not to run, that would open up the third seat.)

James no doubt will benefit from name recognition among many in the county. Her father was the venerable former president of the Maryland Senate and state treasurer, William S. James (Yes, he's the guy the Senate office building's named after).

The others being supported by Harriet's List are:

Pat Gorman, a Northeast Baltimore community activist with roots deep in the New Democratic Club -- 2nd District (NDC-2), who is running for one of three House seats in the crowded field of the 43rd District.

At the least, Gorman faces incumbents Del. Ann Marie Doory, Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and Del. Michael V. Dobson, who was appointed this year to fill the term of former Del. Gerald J. Curran, who resigned amid an ethics committee investigation into his business dealings.

Del. Adrienne A. W. Jones, who is standing for election for the first time from the 10th District, a district shared by Baltimore city and county. Jones was appointed to the House last September to replace the late Del. Joan N. Parker.

Del. Ellen Willis Miller, who is running again in Carroll County's 5th District. Though unsuccessful in her bid for the House in 1994, Miller was appointed in February 1996 to a seat vacated by Richard N. Dixon, who became state treasurer.

Joan F. Stern, a community activist in northern Montgomery County, who is taking on the Republican triumvirate in the 39th District House delegation for one of the three seats.

New York Post says Ellen Who?

Apparently the b'hoys in New York haven't gotten the word yet that a kinder, gentler Ellen R. Sauerbrey is running for governor.

In recounting New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's trip to Baltimore to help raise money for her at a $1,000-a-head event last week, the New York Post identified the Republican candidate as "Ellen Sauerberry."

The misspelling of her name seemed inadvertent, but to Maryland readers it did conjure up pictures of Sauerbrey complaining bitterly and loudly about her narrow loss to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 1994 -- the "Ellen Sourgrapes" image her political handlers are still trying desperately to dispel.

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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