Bitter battle unfolding for Senate seat in 41st Democrats Blount, Boston charge one another with misleading voters

Campaign 1998

September 12, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

After a costly legal fight, two West Baltimore political figures are locked in a bitter campaign in the 41st Legislative District, sparring over everything from their qualifications to campaign signs.

Clarence W. Blount, the Senate majority leader and the most powerful black senator in the legislature, is running for re-election against Del. Frank D. Boston Jr., a three-term incumbent who heads the city House delegation.

Boston, who filed suit to try to keep Blount off the ballot, charges that Blount is defrauding voters because he doesn't live in the 41st District.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's an absentee senator. He has abandoned this district," said Boston, 59.

It is a bitter race in the 41st, a heavily Democratic district where there is no Republican primary for either the House or Senate. Gregory Truitt, who garnered three percent of the vote when he ran as a Democrat against Blount in 1994, is again running as a Democratic Senate candidate.

Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates are Richard C. Barbee, Nathaniel Bland, Walter Dean, Lisa A. Gladden, Clarice Herbert, Nathaniel T. Oaks, Wendell F. Phillips and Marshall Pittman.

Blount, 77, said that he gave Boston his political start 12 years ago and calls Boston a turncoat for running against him. He said Boston also is misleading voters with campaign signs claiming he is a senator.

"I created him. He wouldn't have been a delegate at all if I hadn't put his name out there," said Blount, who is chairman of the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee and has been Senate majority leader for 16 years.

Many of Boston's campaign signs read, "Re-elect Frank Boston Jr. to the Senate, 41st District." Blount said that clearly gives voters the impression Boston is already in the Senate.

"They're misleading and probably illegal, but we have done nothing about it because I refuse to run a campaign focused on personal attacks," Blount said.

Boston said the signs merely say that he is up for re-election and that he is making a bid for the Senate. He said his status as a delegate is common knowledge.

Boston said Blount isn't qualified because he doesn't live in the district, or even shop there. Boston sued in Anne Arundel Circuit Court to have Blount's name taken off the ballot after he hired a private detective and uncovered evidence raising questions about Blount's residency.

Blount, who decided to run only a few days before the filing deadline, admitted in court that he sleeps most nights in a condominium he and his wife own in Pikesville, well outside the city district. But Blount's attorneys argued that he qualifies to represent the 41st because he rents an apartment there.

Judge Michael E. Loney ordered Blount's name stricken off the ballot, calling the evidence "overwhelming."

But the Court of Appeals reversed Loney and allowed Blount to run. The court hasn't issued an explanation.

Blount said the court decision settled the residency issue once and for all and that Boston mounted the legal challenge with support from Republicans.

But Boston said the suit cost him about $30,000 of his own money, and soured him on the Maryland court system.

Boston is angry that his challenge has made him a political pariah among some of the political establishment in a district long dominated by Blount. All he did was expose the truth about Blount's residency, he said.

"It's like, Oh, I'm the bad guy," Boston said. "I'm bitter because the many people who are supposed to be pillars of our community apparently have a double standard when it comes to certain people."

He may be a pariah to some, but Boston is considered a viable candidate for Blount's seat. Even Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Blount ally, called Boston "a formidable candidate" when he entered the race.

A city school teacher, Boston is chairman of the city's House delegation and has carried water for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in that role since 1991, successfully fending off a number of challenges to the position. He is also a member of the influential Economic Matters Committee.

But Boston said he also has to overcome Blount's advantage as a 28-year incumbent who has spent a lot of time doling out scholarships and doing favors for constituents.

"I'm working extremely hard," Boston said. "I will not wake up on the 16th [of September] and say I wish I had done this, I wish I

had done that."

District 41

Candidates: District 41 Democratic Senate candidates are Clarence W. Blount, Frank D. Boston Jr. and Gregory Truitt. Democratic House candidates are Richard C. Barbee, Nathaniel Bland, Walter Dean, Lisa A. Gladden, Clarice Herbert, Nathaniel T. Oaks, Wendell F. Phillips and Marshall Pittman. There is no Republican primary.

Data: 1994 primary turnout: 29 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans; Salary: $30, 591; Term: Four years

The district: The 41st adjoins the 40th District in the west. Its neighborhoods include Pimlico, Forest Park, Ashburton, Edmondson Village and Irvington.

Pub Date: 9/12/98

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