In a sharp escalation of a key race in Baltimore, a political rival filed suit yesterday claiming Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the respected elder statesman of the Maryland Senate, does not live in the district he has represented for 27 years.
Del. Frank D. Boston Jr. alleges that the Senate majority leader does not meet the residency requirement for his job. He asked Anne Arundel Circuit Court to remove Blount's name from the September Democratic ballot.
"If you don't live in your district, you're not sensitive to the needs of the people," Boston said. "You don't see the abandoned houses, the prostitution, the drug addiction, and you don't feel the pain. You don't see the young people reinvesting, and you don't feel the joy."
Boston, 59, a three-term member of the House of Delegates, is waging a risky but aggressive campaign to unseat the 77-year-old Blount, who is seeking a seventh term. Both are Democrats.
After receiving complaints from several constituents, Boston said, he researched Blount's residency -- and believes the senator lives just outside Pikesville, a good distance from his district.
Blount acknowledged he owns a condominium there, which he bought for $189,000 in March 1995, according to property records. But he maintains his primary residence is in the city's 41st District -- a two-story home on Copley Road in Ashburton.
Property records show the owner as Sandra L. Jones, who could not be reached yesterday. Blount said, "The house has been in the family since the late 1960s," and "I declare that my domicile."
"This is so obnoxious," Blount added. "Obviously, he [Boston] has no other issues, and his record certainly couldn't match mine, so he gets to this."
In the lawsuit, Boston claims that the senator is residing at 9107 Ruth Elder Lane, in Baltimore County's Grey Rock neighborhood, in violation of the state's residency requirement. Lawmakers can own multiple properties, but state law requires that they have one legal residence, interpreted in past court cases as where they sleep and vote.
The Maryland attorney general's office is opposing Boston, arguing insufficient time to revise the ballots. A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 24.
The lawsuit could resolve persistent rumors about Blount's residency. Some opponents have suggested that he lives near Annapolis, at an inherited property. Boston said witnesses will testify that Blount and his wife are usually at the Ruth Elder Lane home.
Friends and colleagues of Blount called the lawsuit outrageous and insulting.
"I know the senator has never neglected his constituent duties in Baltimore City, and he continues to be the leading advocate for Baltimore City," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. "For someone to challenge this unbelievably great Marylander whom the entire Senate holds in esteem, it's hard to fathom."