Board makes pick for delegate

Goodwin recommended to succeed late Rawlings

`A great public disservice'

Many Md. leaders wanted son to have father's seat

December 08, 2003|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Rejecting calls from prominent Maryland politicians to name the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings' son as his successor last night, the committee charged with making the recommendation to the governor instead chose a retired deputy city sheriff, Marshall T. Goodwin.

The decision of the 40th District State Central Committee on a 4-1 vote came after an hour of public interviews and brief - but at times contentious - discussion in a room packed with several dozen residents and local political officials at Baltimore City Community College's Liberty Campus.

In their decision to choose the 46-year-old Goodwin, committee members said they wanted a seasoned community leader to assume Baltimore's 40th District seat in the House of Delegates as a replacement for the venerable Rawlings, who died last month after a long bout with cancer.

Goodwin and Rawlings' son, Wendell, both serve on the central committee that voted last night.

"Our decision in this instance is not clear-cut," said committee member Tyrone Keys, before announcing his vote for Goodwin. "I base my decision on qualifications and experience."

Helen Bradford, who has been on the committee for more than a decade, said she thought Wendell Rawlings needs to prove himself politically before taking such a high-level office. "You want to get somebody who's going to be strong back-boned. Have you proven anything?" she said.

Wendell Rawlings said the committee was saying "the people of the 40th are stupid" because they voted against him. Rawlings said he should have succeeded his father because he was elected to the central committee with more votes than Goodwin.

"Right now we see a great public disservice," the 32-year-old Rawlings said before giving himself the only vote he received last night.

Rawlings vowed afterward to run for the House of Delegates during the next election in 2006. "In three years, we will see who's smarter," the committee or the voters, he said.

But last night's decision could have a broader effect on the city and state in the short run.

Wendell Rawlings, a mechanical engineer who works with a nonprofit youth organization, was viewed by some political observers as potentially a key advocate for Mayor Martin O'Malley in Annapolis at a time of growing political tension. The Rawlings family - including the late delegate and his daughter, City Councilwoman Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake - has been a strong ally of the mayor.

Some state lawmakers are pushing legislation that would move the city's mayoral election to coincide with gubernatorial elections beginning in 2006. Currently, the mayoral and gubernatorial races are held in separate years, which enables city officials to run for statewide offices without surrendering their local elective jobs, unless they win.

If the proposed legislation is successful, O'Malley would have to choose between a run for mayor and a run for governor.

Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks, who is sponsoring the legislation to move the city election, said after last night's vote that Goodwin's selection will help ensure that the city delegation has people who will not simply cater to the mayor's wishes.

"It gives another independent voice," said Oaks, a Northwest Baltimore Democrat, who said he thinks Goodwin rightfully obtained the seat over Wendell Rawlings. "It is a political process, not an inheritance process."

Goodwin worked for the city sheriff's department from 1979 until July, and ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 1986. He said he worked on criminal justice legislation through the City Council and the General Assembly during his years with the sheriff's office.

"I've had a lot of experience, vast experience, on the state and local level," Goodwin told the committee during his interview.

In addition to Goodwin and Rawlings, a third candidate, Dennis T. Byrne, a former candidate for delegate, also applied for the post. But Goodwin and Rawlings were viewed as the front-runners.

Political leaders such as O'Malley, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kweisi Mfume and others had been lobbying on behalf of Rawlings to succeed his father.

Mfume said it had long been a tradition in state and federal politics that a family member succeed a lawmaker who died. Moreover, he said it was the late delegate's wish that his son take his seat.

Del. Salima S. Marriott, a Democrat who represents the 40th District and is chairwoman of the city House delegation, said she was disappointed with the central committee decision. She said she thinks the city needs younger leaders to step up and fill positions in government, and this was an opportunity to make that happen.

"I'm a big believer that we must bring younger people into the process," Marriott said. "I'm very disappointed."

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