Gladden, Jones share more than wins over popular incumbents

Senate newcomers seen as hard-working, pledged to consensus building

September 12, 2002|By M. Dion Thompson and Eric Siegel | M. Dion Thompson and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Four years ago, Lisa A. Gladden and Verna L. Jones went to Annapolis as first-term delegates.

When they return to the General Assembly in January, they will again be freshmen -- only this time in the state Senate.

Both won impressive victories in Tuesday's Democratic primary over well-known incumbents: Gladden defeated Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman and Jones unseated Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV.

Together, these two African-American women will make up a third of Baltimore's Senate delegation.

State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, who strongly supported Gladden and Jones, described them as "very hard workers."

"They're very committed to their communities," he said. "And they're very, very bright intellectually."

Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, also noted that both took risks in taking on formidable incumbents.

"Verna Jones was running against a name that was part of the city's great tradition," he said. "Lisa Gladden ran knowing that she would have to confront the most powerful woman in the General Assembly."

Both Gladden and Jones were born and raised in Baltimore, are single and have no children.

Both have vowed to develop coalitions within their communities and in the General Assembly, with Gladden saying she would be a "consensus builder" and Jones saying she "would really like to see people work together more."

There are differences between the two Senate newcomers as well -- in personality and policy.

At 46, Jones is nine years older than Gladden and provides a quiet counterpoint to her exuberant colleague.

Deeply religious, Jones, who will represent West Baltimore's 44th District, was a longtime housing activist who spent four years under Rawlings' tutelage on the Appropriations Committee.

Yesterday, hours after her election victory, she stood on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard waving to motorists as a way to thank voters and then was off to a tenant council meeting at a senior citizen high-rise.

"I'm a constituent person," she said.

Jones says improving schools and city recreation centers are among the top issues facing her district. She would like to land a seat on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which Hoffman chaired, an assignment Jones says would build upon her experience on House Appropriations.

Gladden, a lawyer, has been a protege of Sen. Clarence W. Blount, who is retiring from the 41st District seat she will now assume. During the 2001 legislative session, Blount and Rawlings tapped her to shepherd through the General Assembly a bill outlawing racial profiling by police.

She said she wants to work on reducing the number of abandoned houses in the Northwest Baltimore district, particularly in Park Heights. She also would like to increase funding for drug treatment and find innovative ways to help seniors pay for prescription drugs.

Gladden concedes that achieving these goals will not be easy, given her freshman status. "We just need to continue to work hard," she said. "There's going to be a whole lot of people who are going to be sitting in the back of the class."

One issue where Gladden and Jones differ is on whether the state should legalize slot machines.

"At this point in time I am not in favor of slots," said Jones.

Gladden, on the other hand, favors slots at racetracks if the proceeds are used to increase education funding for the state's poorer jurisdictions.

Jones, who decided to enter the Senate race the night before the filing deadline, says the voters deserve plaudits. "I think it's very courageous for communities to come together and cast their votes for change," she said.

The sometimes racially charged contest between Gladden and Hoffman left many concerned that there would be a need to mend black-Jewish relations in the district. Gladden said she believes the district's communities will work together.

"There's been some concern that somehow the African-American community and the Jewish community are going to fight each other," she said. "We're not going to tear each other up."

Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, who heads the city's Senate delegation, said he is excited about the newcomers and is not too concerned about the city losing such longtime champions as Blount, Hoffman and Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell.

"They bring a new perspective," he said of the incoming freshmen senators.

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