Jessamy draws 250 to event

State's attorney throws her biggest fund-raiser as she faces challenge

July 29, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Facing the strongest election challenge for an incumbent Baltimore state's attorney in 20 years, Patricia C. Jessamy turned up her campaigning a notch yesterday, holding her biggest fund-raiser to date: a $54-a-head crab feast on her 54th birthday.

Following a tough week in which Jessamy's office exchanged sharp criticism with Mayor Martin O'Malley, then called a truce, the city's top prosecutor appeared jovial and gracious for a group of about 250 supporters.

"As a mentor and friend told me today, `Everybody in this room supports you. You don't have to tell them to vote for you,'" Jessamy said. "Working together, we can make a difference. We have and we will."

Jessamy has held the office since 1995 but has never been challenged in an election. This year, she has two serious candidates aiming for her job in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary: longtime lawyer Anton J.S. Keating and City Councilwoman Lisa Joi Stancil.

The late afternoon fund-raiser was held at Martin's Champagne Room banquet hall on Patapsco Avenue in South Baltimore, where a crowd wearing T-shirts with Jessamy's likeness and stickers with her name filled up on crabs, mashed potatoes, pasta and salad.

Guests included many of Jessamy's employees, community leaders, a handful of police officers and 6th District City Councilman Kwame Osayaba Abayomi.

A few supporters who wanted to thank Jessamy for helping to lock up criminals who murdered loved ones also attended.

"My niece was killed and the state's attorney's office worked so diligently on the case," said Sharon Lawson, recalling the killing of LaShawn N. Jordan. Kenneth D. Perry was sentenced last year to spend the rest of his life in prison for shooting Jordan, his former girlfriend, as her 4-year-old daughter watched.

The only allusion during the fund-raiser to the highly public exchange of barbs with the mayor came from Margaret T. Burns, Jessamy's spokeswoman, who berated the mayor at a news conference last week.

"I didn't know I would be speaking today," Burns said into a microphone, laughing. "But someone said if I talked, people would listen."

A supporter yelled out: "The mayor's not here!"

Last week's finger-pointing between O'Malley and the state's attorney's office came amid a nearly monthlong spate of violence in the city that left two dozen people dead, including three children. The flaring of tempers was sparked by mayoral questions about the handling of a shooting case by Jessamy's office, which did not have a representative at a suspect's bail hearing.

Though the dispute subsided after a meeting Friday, Jessamy was sharply criticized by her political adversaries for not publicly facing the controversy herself, instead asking her spokeswoman to deliver harsh words to the mayor through the media.

Yesterday, some supporters in the crowd said they may not have agreed with all of Jessamy's decisions, but they want her to be re-elected.

Bill Gooden, 49, a community activist who lives in the Pen Lucy neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, said he has protested against Jessamy in the past but believes in her as state's attorney. He also said he likes supporting her because of her race.

"I am somewhat pro-black and I think she's done a halfway decent job. She's the better candidate to support," Gooden said.

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