Long-serving delegate wants to stay on track

City's 45th District legislators urged not to write off Harrison

June 06, 2005|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

When Del. Hattie N. Harrison last sought re-election, she successfully battled an all-male field of opponents in East Baltimore with the slogan, "Don't Throw Mama from the Train."

Now the longest-serving African-American in the history of the Maryland General Assembly, Harrison is planning a sequel to that 2002 campaign. This time a woman more than 20 years her junior is vying for a spot on a ticket from which Harrison was dropped three years ago.

Cheryl D. Glenn, a 54-year-old Baltimore native, declared in a letter about her first fund-raiser last month: "I will be on the ticket with my Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden" in the 45th District for the 2006 election.

The letter prompted Harrison supporters to urge political leaders - McFadden in particular - and voters in district, "Once again, don't throw Mama from the train," said lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, a volunteer on the delegate's campaign.

"There's absolutely no reason to retire Delegate Harrison," Bereano said. "Hattie has every intention of running for re-election."

If she does, it appears she might do so without the help of the East Baltimore political establishment yet again.

In Maryland, each state Senate district contains three House of Delegates seats. Senators almost always form a ticket with three House candidates from the same party, creating a team to campaign together, pool resources and work on local issues. It is unusual for a senator running for re-election to drop an incumbent delegate from his or her ticket.

In 2002, McFadden, head of the Eastside Democratic Organization that Harrison helped found, replaced Harrison on his ticket with newcomer Vernon E. Crider. McFadden contended that Harrison had said she was retiring, but the veteran lawmaker had other plans.

Known to many as "Mama," Harrison launched a solo campaign and won re-election, capitalizing on a slogan that was a play on the title of a popular movie.

Harrison, 77, said she is determined to continue serving in the legislature even if McFadden does not include her on his ticket next year. She said is gearing up for a tough campaign and is ready to run, despite back and knee problems that kept her out of much of this year's legislative session.

"We thought we better start getting the train ready," she said.

Harrison said she believes McFadden wants delegates in his district who will support whatever he asks. She said she evaluates issues on their merits, not based on the desires of the senator in the district.

During the 2002 election, Harrison said McFadden told her she was too old and that the district needed younger representation.

McFadden said concerns about dropping Harrison are premature. No final decision will be made until after the 2006 legislative session, which begins in January and ends in April.

"The election is next year," McFadden said. "It is too early to be talking about support or tickets. We haven't formed a ticket yet."

McFadden did say that Glenn would make a strong candidate and that he believes she could be an asset to the 45th District.

"I do think extremely highly of Cheryl Glenn," McFadden said. "She's a great lady."

The 2006 election is expected to be one of Maryland's hottest political contests in recent years, with tough races for governor and many legislative seats.

With 15 months before the scheduled primary, tension is running high.

McFadden criticized Bereano for asserting himself in local affairs, saying, "Tell that former convicted felon to stay ... out of the 45th Legislative District" - a reference to Bereano's 1994 conviction on mail-fraud charges.

Glenn said she wants to stay away from personal attacks. She said she believes she will need to spend at least $40,000 to unseat one of the three incumbents in the district: Harrison, Del. Clarence Davis or Del. Talmadge Branch, the vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. All are Democrats.

Branch also said that Harrison is the only incumbent not being considered as part of McFadden's ticket, which he said he doesn't believe is right.

Born in Lancaster, S.C., Harrison has served for 32 years in the House of Delegates and is chairwoman of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.

Glenn has been a member of the state and local Democratic Central Committees and has been a longtime community activist. She founded and served as president of the City Union of Baltimore, Local 800, which represented 8,000 city employees at its peak.

Glenn said she made it known in 2002 that she would seek election to the House of Delegates in 2006, and said voters will decide who can best represent them.

"Those people who serve the district should have no problem being re-elected," Glenn said.

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