Gaddy's oldest daughter seeks to succeed mother on council

Briggs may face challenge from candidate backed by east-side political group

October 12, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Homeless advocate Bea Gaddy's oldest daughter announced yesterday that she is seeking the City Council seat held by her mother, but she is likely to have a difficult struggle against an East Baltimore political operation that critics worry will control the succession.

Sandra Elaine Fowler Briggs said yesterday that it was her mother's "dying wish" that she take the 2nd District council seat, which is to be filled by election of the council for the remainder of Gaddy's term, until 2004.

"I am prepared to accept this seat and all of the responsibilities that actually come along with this office," said Briggs, 44, who made the announcement outside March Funeral Home at 1101 E. North Ave., the site of Tuesday's funeral for her mother, who died last week at age 68.

"I do want to honor my mother's legacy to continue to make her legacy live on," she said. "I would be able to touch so many people at one time."

Briggs, a longtime administrative assistant with the state Department of Transportation, said she is "ready for the challenge" because she has worked alongside her mother and has been "taught by the best teacher in the world."

"I hope that all [council] members take her wishes into deep consideration," she said.

But Briggs appears to face an uphill battle against the Eastside Democratic Organization (EDO), an established East Baltimore political operation led by state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden.

The two other 2nd District members charged with recommending a successor are EDO members, Paula Johnson Branch and Bernard C. "Jack" Young. And tradition holds that the rest of the council respect their recommendation.

McFadden said in an interview last week that he expects that the EDO, in consultation with Branch and Young, will get behind one candidate. The two names most frequently mentioned are Vernon E. Crider - who wanted to fill a 2nd District vacancy in 1996, when Young was selected - and Alphonso Barney, who finished fourth in Gaddy's successful 1999 race for the seat.

Four East Baltimore community leaders issued a statement yesterday backing Briggs and calling on Crider and Barney to withdraw.

"We demand that [the EDO] not interfere with or make this process of succession a sham by sliding one of their cronies into the City Council," said the statement. "We urge our council members to follow the wishes of the people, not the dictates of the Eastside Democratic Organization."

One of the authors of the statement, Aaron Keith Wilkes, president of Darley Park Community Association, said the EDO and its political leaders have not served the community for decades: "They promise a lot of things but never deliver anything."

McFadden did not return a telephone call yesterday. Barney, who works at the EDO nonprofit Fair Chance, also has not returned telephone calls. Crider could not be reached for comment.

In addition to Briggs, another potential non-EDO candidate is Anthony W. McCarthy, 34, associate publisher of the Baltimore Times and former chief of staff for City Council President Sheila Dixon. McCarthy declined to comment yesterday.

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