Rawlings' son will vie for late delegate's seat

He is on district panel making recommendation

November 23, 2003|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

The son of the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings is adding his name to the list of candidates under consideration for the vacant seat in the House of Delegates created by the death of the prominent lawmaker more than a week ago.

Wendell Rawlings, 32, associate director of One World Cultural Arts Society, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization that focuses on youth development, said he would like the opportunity to continue the work his father did for the city and the state.

"It's always been a dream to carry the torch my dad has lit," said Rawlings, who is a member of the 40th District State Central Committee, which will make a recommendation to the governor to fill the seat. "When he passed, I knew I wanted to assume his position in the House of Delegates."

Wendell Rawlings faces tough competition for the seat from three others, including Marshall T. Goodwin, a former city sheriff's deputy who is chairman of the district's central committee. City Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh and community activist and pharmaceutical businessman Shawn Z. Tarrant are also vying for the seat.

Goodwin said yesterday that the five-member central committee is scheduled to meet Dec. 6 to interview candidates before sending a recommendation to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who makes appointments for vacancies in the General Assembly.

Filling any vacant city seat in the legislature has become a critical concern because of the losses of powerful Baltimore leaders during the past year, including Rawlings, the late Sen. Clarence W. Blount and Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who was the most powerful female lawmaker in Annapolis until her defeat in last year's state elections. City officials said there is a pressing need for strong leaders to help lobby on Baltimore's behalf, in particular during the legislative session that begins in January.

"The names I've heard are all good people," said Del. Tony E. Fulton, who represents the district. "The most important thing is being qualified. Who is the most qualified based on education, experience and commitment?"

Goodwin declined to speculate about the outcome of the appointment, saying he "wants to let the process run its course."

And although he would like the seat, Tarrant, who ran a close race for City Council in September's primary, said yesterday that he might withdraw from consideration if Wendell Rawlings is interested. "I will make myself available to serve ... [but] if Wendell Rawlings is interested, of course, I would help and support him," Tarrant said.

Pugh did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

No matter who fills the vacancy, the city will lose substantial stature in the House because the legislature operates on seniority.

The elder Rawlings had served in the legislature for more than two decades, including 11 years as chairman of the Appropriations Committee - considered the most powerful House committee because it handles the state budget. The new city delegate, who will serve out the term that runs through 2006, will have the least seniority of the 141 members of the House.

The recommendation for the vacancy will come from a committee that includes the younger Rawlings, Goodwin, City Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch, Helen Bradford and Tyrone Keys.

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