Raynor aims for elections board

Former city voting official served on Maryland panel

O'Malley allies note Ehrlich ties

July 10, 2005|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

A familiar figure has emerged as a leading contender to take charge of running Baltimore's elections - one with close ties to Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and a critic of Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Gene M. Raynor, who was replaced in 1987 as administrator to the Baltimore Board of Elections by Barbara E. Jackson, is seeking to succeed her. She retired at the end of last year.

If selected, Raynor, 69, would bring decades of experience as election administrator for both Baltimore and the state. But O'Malley's allies aren't pleased that one of the mayor's biggest detractors could run the office that oversees the city's elections.

Last summer, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed Raynor to the state Board of Elections as part of a strategy to oust state elections administrator Linda H. Lamone, a holdover from former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The effort failed, and Raynor resigned from the state board in January.

As O'Malley mounts a challenge to Ehrlich for the 2006 gubernatorial election, the mayor's backers worry that Raynor's management of the office would favor Ehrlich.

"Raynor's presence could certainly raise an eyebrow or two," said Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat. "He's very close to the [Ehrlich] administration. There's no secret to that."

Raynor's appointment must be approved by the three members of the city's Board of Elections, who are appointed by Ehrlich. The governor does not put forward candidates and has no authority over who gets the administrator's job, an Ehrlich spokesman said.

The process is handled by the state's personnel process, and the city board makes the decision after interviewing candidates. The administrator oversees all aspects of local elections.

Raynor confirmed that he applied for the job about six months ago but that he has heard nothing from the state. He said local board members asked him to apply.

Raynor served as the city's administrator from 1979 to 1987 and had worked in the office since 1958. He left to become state elections chief when Schaefer was elected governor, retiring in 1997.

"Ehrlich's people don't know a thing about it," Raynor said. "It's the board members of the city local elections board that appoint."

He acknowledged that he has been a frequent critic of O'Malley.

"I have a right to have an opinion," Raynor said. "In that job, I would not talk about O'Malley or anyone else. I would certainly be nonpartisan."

Raynor said his primary interest in the job is to realign the city's precincts and wards to better reflect population shifts and recent redistricting. State Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, said Raynor could do the job without letting his feelings about O'Malley get in the way.

"If you're the administrator, you have to be impartial," Della said. "You want an election that is run smoothly, efficiently, without questions. He's a smart guy who's done it before. Whether he likes Martin O'Malley or not doesn't factor into it."

Not so, said Branch and other O'Malley allies.

"This is going to be a highly contested election" for governor, Branch said. "You want a fair fight. ... How could he be fair?"

There have been allegations of voter fraud in Maryland's past. In 1994, when Glendening defeated Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey by 5,993 votes, the GOP sued over 51,000 votes - including many in the city - in a lengthy court challenge that was eventually dismissed.

Branch and others said they would prefer to see the city board appoint a black administrator to replace Jackson, an African-American woman.

Armstead B.C. Jones, president of the city's Board of Elections, said there have been many applicants for the position, but he has not yet seen any of the names. He would not comment on whether he has applied, but Branch said Jones - a black Republican - wants the position.

"Someone like Armstead Jones would be perfect," Branch said.

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