Machine chooses Bea Gaddy's successor

East Baltimore politics: Pamela Carter is a good City Council pick, despite odious selection process.

November 07, 2001

PAMELA V. CARTER has the necessary credentials to succeed the late Bea Gaddy on the Baltimore City Council. That's why East Baltimore's dominant political machine did her no favors by turning the selection process into a mockery. It pretended to consider 11 other candidates even after having anointed Ms. Carter in a smoke-filled room.

This charade was fully in keeping with the ways the Eastside Democratic Organization operates. But it was an affront to the memory of Bea Gaddy, an advocate for the homeless and champion of the downtrodden.

EDO survives as the city's only powerful, old-time political machine. It thrives on patronage, which it is able to dole out not only through politicians but also through the interlocking directorships of a number of nonprofit organizations. In this way, EDO has turned political control into an art form. It brooks no dissent. When it spots a potential challenger, it does its darnedest to neutralize or co-opt that person.

Even though the city's 2nd District is diverse and includes such thriving pockets as Bolton Hill, Charles Village and Guilford, EDO's power base is in its impoverished neighborhoods.

In fact, the better-off areas lost their voice in 1996, when Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge resigned. He was the last relic of a multiracial coalition that had existed from the 1970s. That alliance, which had been crumbling for years, fell apart in 1995, when one of its white leaders, Mary Pat Clarke, ran against Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, an African-American.

Even though Pam Carter is an EDO loyalist, her political history shows some promising flashes of independence. Such a sign was her long association with Nathan C. Irby Jr., a former state senator who was among EDO's founders but then split to form his own organization. Similarly, in unsuccessfully running for City Council, she proved she was no one's patsy. She also gave such prominence to registering new voters that her council campaign suffered as a result. Nevertheless, she kept the focus on voter registration.

With Democrats Paula Johnson Branch and Bernard C. "Jack" Young as the other members, the 2nd District council delegation is so weak that Ms. Carter should have no difficulty making her mark -- particularly if she recognizes that she was appointed to represent the whole district and not just EDO strongholds.

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