A Baltimore City Council committee chose William A. "Pete" Welch Jr. to replace his mother on the Baltimore City Council, despite concerns about his past criminal offenses.
Nine of the 12 council members on the committee voted for Welch, who had worked for nearly 30 years as a legislative aide to his mother, Agnes Welch, who retired from the council last month.
Welch's candidacy sparked outcry from community leaders and political observers, who pointed to his criminal record. He pleaded guilty to handgun violations in 1999 for firing at a group of angry poll workers and, the following year, was convicted of paying poll workers -- a process that is now legal. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to file campaign finance reports while treasurer of his mother's campaign.
Councilman Robert W. Curran nominated Welch, saying that his "long-time relationship" with the Ninth District, made him best-qualified for the job. Nicholas D'Adamo seconded the nomination.
Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Council Vice President Edward Reisinger, and council members Warren Branch, William H. Cole IV, Belinda Conaway, Sharon Green Middleton and Carl Stokes voted for Welch.
After a lengthy pause, Councilman James B. Kraft nominated Abigail Breiseth, a teacher who helped found a charter school. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke seconded the nomination and Councilman Bill Henry also voted for Breiseth. Clarke said that she had decided against voting for Welch because of his record.
"With all due respect for years of service, I was very impressed with the other candidates," she said.
Young declined to answer questions after the vote and called to a spokesman, "Where's the statement? Get the statement."
In the statement, Young said that "Welch's criminal past is well-documented and much discussed."
"The fact of the matter is he has long since paid his debt to society and should not continuously be penalized for his past lapses in judgment," he said in the statement.
Welch shook the hands of council members after the vote and said, "Thank you for having faith in me."
"I'm a different person now than I was then," he said in an interview. "I'll prove it in the way I approach the residents of the Ninth District."