Alternative to mayor's foe sought for elections post

Democratic councilman urges naming of black Republican


News from around the Baltimore region

July 22, 2005|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, a Democrat, wants Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to appoint an African-American member of the state GOP to head the city's Board of Elections.

The request may seem politically counterintuitive, but Young said the possible alternative candidate - Gene M. Raynor - is unacceptable because he is a political enemy of Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Young said last week he would be asking other council members to begin a letter-writing campaign to encourage the governor to push for the appointment of Armstead B.C. Jones as administrator for the Board of Elections.

The previous administrator, Barbara E. Jackson, retired after the 2004 election.

Jones, a black Republican, is president of the elections agency's board, but the administrator role would put him in charge of the office's day-to-day operations, managing all aspects of Baltimore elections.

Jones reportedly has applied for the job, but so too has Raynor, who had previously worked in the office between 1958 and 1987, serving the last eight years as administrator. Raynor left to become state elections chief when former Gov. William Donald Schaefer was elected governor, retiring in 1997.

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 has said.

Raynor is a frequent critic of O'Malley and a close ally and friend of Schaefer, who is also an O'Malley critic. The mayor's allies fear that Raynor would be in a position to influence all aspects of votes next year when the mayor is expected to run for governor.

Schaefer said Raynor "is as honest as the day is long."

"He'd do an excellent job," Schaefer said. "He won't throw an election. He'd never tell anyone how to vote. He's an honest man."

Raynor said that if the board can find someone more qualified than he is, "I'll support them."

Raynor laughed at the suggestion that Young and others were worried about his ties to Ehrlich.

"What about Armstrong's ties to Ehrlich? He's a direct appointment of Ehrlich," Raynor said. "I haven't seen or talked to Ehrlich in a year."

Jones would not confirm whether he is a candidate for the job. He said that if he was a candidate he would not have to resign his position with the board to be eligible. He said that he would simply have to refrain from voting on the decision.

Young said the Republicans should be trying to build relationships with the black community. Passing over a black candidate to replace Jackson, who is black, would be an insult, Young said.

"I really don't think this should not be a political ballgame," Young said. "They have someone who is already there who is African-American - it's a no-brainer."

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