6 hoping to win 3 District 43 seats Incumbent Democrats preparing for primary say voters are happy

September 03, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

There's a feeling in the 43rd Legislative District that somebody is going to get knocked out of a House of Delegates seat this year, and it's only a matter of who.

Pat Gorman is banking on it, and William Goodin says he's sure of it. Along with Thomas Allred -- an adherent of Lyndon LaRouche who says that everything depends on what the stock market is doing on Election Day -- Gorman and Goodin are challengers in the Democratic primary for the Northeast Baltimore office.

Longtime delegates Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and Ann Marie Doory, as well as rookie legislator Michael V. Dobson, are the Democratic incumbents. No one is running in the Republican primary. State Sen. Joan Carter Conway is unopposed.

The 43rd takes in most of North Baltimore between Charles Street and Harford Road and is one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the city. Once an Irish, German and Italian enclave, it now has a narrow black majority.

Dobson, appointed to his seat in March after Del. Gerald J. Curran resigned when questions arose about his business dealings, acknowledges that he and his running mates can hear Gorman's footsteps.

"There's no question," said Dobson, a 48-year-old bankruptcy claims analyst who has never been elected to public office. "But fortunately we are hearing her from behind."

Gorman, a 55-year-old social worker and party activist from Original Northwood, has been working hard to outrun her opponents by Sept. 15. Like others in the race, she is motivated by obvious issues like education and crime in a middle-class district that is losing population and seeing a decline in home ownership. She also has strong feelings about the relationship between Morgan State University and its neighbors.

"The school wants to acquire apartments for dorms, and everyone seemed to know about it but the residents," she said. "Morgan needs more housing, that's certain, but residents felt there was a lot of negotiating going on and they haven't been at the bargaining table. Even if these aren't done deals, elected officials need to respond to their constituency."

Longtime activist

Gorman pounds the pavement and presses the flesh with no small amount of vengeance, still smarting from the Conway-led Democratic State Central Committee's vote to replace Curran with Dobson instead of her.

When she announced her intention to fill Curran's seat, Gorman said she believed she had "earned" the right to represent the district through more than two decades of community service. She also points out that she helped secure Conway's appointment to the seat when John A. Pica Jr. resigned midway through his term in late 1996.

Asked her forecast for Election Day, Gorman predicted: "Montague, Gorman and one of the others."

Opposes political cliques

Goodin, 45, a used-furniture salesman with a storefront in lower Park Heights, is among the others. Goodin says he is running against political cliques and the status quo.

"What's in the people's best interest is not a ticket," Goodin said of the Montague-Dobson-Doory alliance. "It's no secret that in black and poor communities [establishment] politics do not work. If voting is supposed to be so good for us, how come so few choose to participate? We've got a barrage of problems -- crime and drugs and education -- but no solutions. What good does it do to have [elected officials] who are supposed to have strength and power but can't make a difference in your life? Our main problem is distrust of the political system."

Montague, 56, co-chair of the General Assembly's ethics committee, is a veteran of a political system and a key member of the probe that forced the ouster of 44th Legislative District Sen. Larry Young early this year. He has served in Annapolis for 12 years.

"As I go around the district, it appears that the vast majority of people are satisfied with the representatives currently there," said Montague. "Even if that's apathy, it would not bode well for Pat Gorman, because apathy says you're satisfied with the status quo."

Montague, an African-American who is part of the only integrated General Assembly delegation from Baltimore (Dobson is black, Doory is white), says that while the racial makeup of the 43rd has shifted, the district's values have not.

Describing the 43rd as "a very work-oriented, middle-class district," Montague said: "African-Americans would like to see more African-Americans, but if you raise a fundamental middle-class issue like [a candidate's] work ethic, they are less inclined to vote on race. I see two relatively new people -- Michael Dobson and Pat Gorman. The question in the minds of voters might be which of these newcomers can best serve the district."

Doory, 44, who faces her fifth election for the House without a loss, bristles at Gorman's suggestion that she is no longer a grass-roots, community-based representative. Doory calls herself "a woman legislator in touch with the soccer mom mentality."

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