Gladden joins Senate run in 41st District

Blount, retiring, endorses her against Hoffman in city

`A logical person to succeed me'

Filing puts her in battle with influential leader

Election 2002

July 06, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Flanked by some of the city's most prominent black political leaders, Del. Lisa A. Gladden announced yesterday that she will seek election to the state Senate from Northwest Baltimore, entering a race against one of the most influential white legislators in the General Assembly.

Gladden, 37, wants to fill the seat of Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the respected majority leader who confirmed yesterday that he is retiring after 32 years. Blount joined Gladden at an afternoon news conference in Annapolis to say he was endorsing the public defender, who is completing her first four-year term as a legislator.

"She is a logical person to succeed me," Blount said of the fellow Democrat. "I'll be happy to pass the mantle on to her."

Gladden was also endorsed by Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and state Sen. Delores G. Kelley -- a demonstration that much of the region's black political establishment is uniting behind a relatively inexperienced candidate in a newly drawn 41st District that is 70 percent black.

Gladden's candidacy poses a serious challenge to state Se. Barbara A. Hoffman, the veteran chairwoman of the Budget and Taxation Committee. Hoffman's home is in the new 41st District as a result of a court-ordered redistricting map.

The support of leading black politicians for Gladden, Cummings said, signals to young African-Americans that hard work and commitment will be rewarded.

"This is Lisa's time. This is Lisa's place," he said.

A member of the House Judiciary Committee who is considered a rising political star, Gladden said her campaign would focus on education, drugs and recreation. She said she turned to the words of her late father, Elzee Gladden, the former principal of Dunbar High School, in deciding whether to run.

"He would tell us: If it is to be, it is up to me," she said.

Yesterday's filing offers further evidence of the upheaval created by the legislative redistricting plan released by the Maryland Court of Appeals last month.

Hoffman has represented the 42nd District, a majority-white district that straddled the city-county line. But in a surprise move, the appeals court released a new map that put all of Baltimore's districts entirely within the city's borders -- and placed Blount and Hoffman in the same district.

Many elected officials urged Hoffman to move to the county, where the 42nd District is now located. But Hoffman said she is committed to serving the city. "I'm willing to put my record up to the voters, and take it from there," she said yesterday.

While Hoffman is widely praised for her budget skills and legislative influence, black leaders said they could not pass over an opportunity to elect a person of color in a district where blacks are the clear majority.

"This process was an internal process in the African-American community that she would be the best candidate to put forward," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "I'm supportive of this process."

Gladden will need more than endorsements to defeat Hoffman, who holds the early advantage in fund raising. As of November, Hoffman had more than $200,000 in her campaign account, compared with $18,800 for Gladden.

City lawmakers of both races said Gladden's announcement presented a wrenching choice.

"I think most of us would probably have mixed emotions," said Del. Clarence Davis, a Baltimore Democrat. "Because one, we do not want to lose Barbara Hoffman. She is central to any future progress of this city. And then, on the other hand, we've always looked to increase African-American representation in the legislative process.

"So here we are: Two of our goals in conflict with each other."

Davis said he doesn't know who he'll support and worries that the campaign will pit Northwest Baltimore's Jewish community against the district's black neighborhoods.

"It's horrible," he said. "The race card will be played, even if people do not openly or publicly state it."

Democratic Del. William H. Cole IV also does not want to see Hoffman leave the Senate but understands Gladden's decision. If she doesn't run for higher office now, he said, she may not have another good opportunity.

"Lisa's worked very hard," Cole said. "I do know that she has a tremendous political future somewhere. ... One way or another, the legislature is going to lose a leading female voice from Baltimore."

Supporters of both candidates are attempting to prevent racial divisions from defining the contest. Hoffman wants voters to focus on her experience and ability.

"In a time of stress, when the Baltimore delegation has been reduced to six [Senate districts], you don't willy-nilly throw out the chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee because she is the wrong color," she said.

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