Curran name to be a factor in campaign for 8th District House of Delegates seats Son of attorney general seeks Sept. primary win

August 11, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

When bartender David A. Lessner goes door to door seeking his Parkville neighbors' votes in next month's 8th District Democratic primary election, he carries a personal typewritten letter reproduced in a local copy shop.

"It's very low-tech, very amateur. If I could get someone to give me some money, I could even do a mailing," the 35-year-old candidate says wistfully.

On the other hand, J. Joseph "Max" Curran III carries professionally printed, illustrated, blue and white brochures, plus packets of forget-me-not flower seeds bearing his name. He stops at homes where his brochure has arrived in the mail, and chats with voters who often received telephone calls the night before from the volunteer phone bank at his Harford Road headquarters.

Best of all, the 33-year-old lawyer runs into voters who know his father, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., or remember his grandfather, two uncles or his brother-in-law, all of whom have served on Baltimore's City Council at one time since 1953.

He says no one has mentioned his cousin, Gerald J. Curran, who resigned from the Maryland House of Delegates in February amid allegations that he used his office to benefit his private insurance business -- a charge he denied.

The attorney general, who is himself running for re-election, is campaigning for Max, along with Max's wife, Jennifer, and other family and friends.

"I just feel good that people have either heard of Max or know me," said the elder Curran. "Here's a father trying to help his son."

'An independent campaign'

Despite his family history, insider connections and the $75,000 he expects to raise, Max Curran says he'll be his own man.

"I thought it's important for me to run an independent campaign. It was important for me as Max to go out and meet voters on my own," says Curran, a friendly, low-key man running his first campaign for public office.

Curran's family name might be known statewide, but he's one of the outsiders in this northeast county-city district, where the real fight seems to be more between incumbents and challengers than between Democrats and Republicans.

Democratic state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell and Del. Katherine Klausmeier are running together, as are Republican Dels. James F. Ports Jr. and Alfred W. Redmer Jr. They have forged a kind of nonaggression pact, dubbed an "unholy alliance" by former Del. William Rush, 78, Bromwell's Republican state Senate opponent.

Klausmeier, whose century-old family name is deeply rooted in Perry Hall -- a road is named after them -- makes no bones about her loyalties. "I'm looking out for myself and for him," Klausmeier says of her relationship with Bromwell.

After years of political upheaval, Ports says, "People are very satisfied with the representation they have. Everywhere we go, they're very happy with their senator and three delegates."

That upsets Joseph C. Boteler III, a 49-year-old Republican House of Delegates candidate, however.

NTC "I believe in being a team player, in helping other Republicans," Boteler says, adding that the nonaggression pact illustrates why limits should be imposed on the number of terms served.

Because Klausmeier is the only incumbent Democratic delegate, Curran figures to easily win nomination to one of the three Democratic delegate slots being sought by five candidates in the primary. His real target, he says, is a seat held by one of the Republicans.

Running as a challenger is "liberating," he says. "I control my own destiny."

Besides Lessner, the other Democratic challengers are Walter B. Burrell Sr., 61, of Perry Hall, an Avesta Sheffield steel company official who also serves on the county's social services board, and Taras Andrew Vizzi, 38, a Hamilton lawyer who lives in White Marsh with his law partner wife and their two young children.

The other Republicans seeking their party's nomination for the House of Delegates are Parkville's D. Robert Date, 34, who owns a miniature golf course and swimming pool water-hauling truck and is a member of the Maryland Taxpayer's Association; and William Downs, 49, a Parkville father of eight who runs a process serving firm.

'It's a dynasty'

Of the newcomers, Curran should have an edge because of his family name, says Herbert Smith, a Western Maryland College professor and political consultant.

"It's a dynasty, like the Byrons of Western Maryland or the Mitchells or Murphys in Baltimore," he said.

But Ports says he is confident that voters are too sophisticated to be impressed by a name.

"Kathy won 'cause she was out there working," he said. "I'm not sure that Curran's name is that big. He ain't going to carry in Perry Hall."

That might be because his natural base is in the southern, more urban part of the district. ButThursday evening, Max Curran got the kind of reception that warms his heart as he trudged through Woodcroft, a neighborhood of neatly kept one-story homes off Harford Road north of the Beltway.

"My wife likes the Curran name," said 69-year old Bernard Schaub, who has lived in the 8700 block of Stockwell Road for 19 years.

"I'm trying to keep it going," Curran replied, smiling, as he handed over another packet of forget-me-nots.

Pub Date: 8/11/98

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