Senator who replaced ousted Young vies to win primary in 44th District Jefferies faces Mitchell

9 candidates campaign for 3 seats in State House

September 13, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mary Maushard contributed to this article.

Democrat John D. Jefferies, the man appointed to replace ousted Sen. Larry Young, is looking to win a term of his own representing the 44th Legislative District in the state Senate in Tuesday's primary.

His challenger, Clarence M. Mitchell IV, is trying to move from the House of Delegates to the Senate, representing the state's poorest legislative district.

In West Baltimore's 44th, more than half of its nearly 97,000 residents live in households earning less than $15,000 a year. Unemployment is 14 percent.

"The main thing to work on is education; it's really the top priority for the whole city," said Jefferies, 70, an official with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. "And I think there's a possibility of getting some light industry back [in Baltimore], but it's going to rely on small business to do it."

Jefferies was selected to replace Young this year, after the veteran politician was ejected for ethical violations.

Challenging him is Mitchell, a 36-year-old bail bondsman, whose family has had a political hold on the district for generations.

"One of the issues of my campaign is about bringing healing back to the district," Mitchell said, referring to the Young ouster, "and integrity in office." Mitchell added that his family's tradition of representing the area gives him a tradition to build upon, while bringing "my own leadership issues to the table."

Nine House candidates

On the House side, nine candidates, including one incumbent, are seeking the three House seats from the district that stretches from downtown west to Sandtown-Winchester. All but one of the candidates in both House and Senate races are Democrats.

Among the nine candidates for the House is incumbent Ruth M. Kirk, who has served for 16 years in the legislature.

"I'm not a Johnny-come-lately," she said. "I may earn [the taxpayers'] salary in Annapolis, but I spend it back in the community. So the big issue is for me to get back in. Right?"

Among the other candidates vying for the House seats is the Rev. Walter F. Burgess, an Episcopalian minister and the only white candidate in a district that is 79 percent black. He considers economic development vital.

"To support the neighborhoods, we need real jobs," said the 50-year-old chaplain to the city's Fire Department and the Stonewall Democratic Club in his native South Baltimore.

Jeffrey A. Paige, 42, a bookkeeper, reports that Young's political organization has donated $3,000 to his campaign. One question voters are asking the candidates is whether they are aligned with Young. Paige counts Young among his advisers and said the ousted politician taught him how to "look folks straight in the eye, shake their hand firmly and ask for their vote."

"I'm promising nothing whatsoever," Paige said. "I don't claim to be a great politician or a statesman. All I say is give me a chance."

Asking voters to give her the chance to use her professional skills in a public forum, Verna L. Jones, 42, is an economic development consultant who has done work in Houston, Denver and Charleston, S.C.

"I don't believe in complaining without taking action, and the only action available to me was to run for office," said Jones, an advocate for affordable housing who grew up in a labor union household.

Also running are Rodney A. Orange Sr., Arlene B. Fisher, Anthony W. McCarthy, Charles W. Neal and Lisa Mitchell, the sister of Senate candidate Mitchell.

After waging a petition drive to be listed as an independent candidate in the November general election, Lisa Mitchell is fighting with the state elections board over the number of valid signatures she collected.

Candidates' issues

Neal, 37, said he is fed up with what seems like an endless war against drugs in which drugs continue to win.

Community activist Fisher, 49, said she is convinced that more of the state and federal money available to neighborhoods in need should be reaching the people.

McCarthy, 30, a former press secretary for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, wants to share the "gifts and talents" bestowed upon him by God with the community.

Orange, 56, former president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who stepped down to seek elective office, said he believes the final tally will send himself, Jones and Kirk to Annapolis.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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