The leader of the Baltimore County chapter of the NAACP says the group has targeted Del. Louis L. DePazzo, D-7th, for defeat in the race for the Baltimore County Circuit Court bench because of allegedly racist comments that were broadcast over the Cable News Network.
"Their needs are different from ours," Mr. DePazzo is heard saying on a tape of the broadcast, referring to blacks. "They have been denied over historically. And society's addressed that. And some of us feel that maybe they're pushing a little too hard now. How much are we going to have to pay for what happened 150 years ago?"
Mr. DePazzo, a Dundalk attorney, made the comments at an October taxpayers' meeting at Dundalk Community College. CNN aired the tape Feb. 2. Mr. DePazzo said the comments were taken out of context.
"I got the [CNN] tape and I looked at it," said James Pennington, president of the Baltimore County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "And it shocked the daylights out of me."
Mr. Pennington said the NAACP will use its influence "throughout the entire county" to oppose Mr. DePazzo's candidacy for judge.
The Peninsula Democratic Club, a group representing the black neighborhoods of Turners Station and Edgemere, will meet Friday to decide whether to support or oppose Mr. DePazzo for judge.
"There's mixed feelings in our community," said Dunbar Brooks, a member of the Peninsula Democratic Club and the county school board.
On one hand, Mr. Brooks said, Mr. DePazzo's comments are "detestable." On the other, Mr. DePazzo is from Dundalk and his argument that the southeastern county is not represented on the Circuit Court bench is appealing, Mr. Brooks said.
Five incumbent judges -- Edward A. DeWaters Jr., Thomas J. Bollinger, J. Norris Byrnes, Robert E. Cahill Sr. and Christian M. Kahl -- are running to maintain their seats. Besides Mr. DePazzo, three other challengers are running for a 15-year term. They are District Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr., Towson attorney Joseph S. Lyons and Albert G. Boyce, of Parkville.
Yesterday, Mr. DePazzo defended himself against charges of racism by saying the comments were taken out of context and are now being used by supporters of the sitting judges in a "smear campaign."
"Suzanne Mensh knew about" the CNN tape, Mr. DePazzo said. "That's their only hope. They're getting absolutely desperate."
Ms. Mensh, clerk of the court, came under fire last week for making "educational" speeches to prospective jurors. Ms. Mensh told the jurors about the election for judge, named the sitting judges and the date of the primary election, but failed to mention the challengers' names.
She stopped making the speeches after Mr. DePazzo filed a formal complaint.
CNN reporter Brooks Jackson said he went to the October taxpayers' meeting in Dundalk to do a feature on Councilman Donald Mason and his tax protest movement. Mr. Jackson declined to say whether he considered Mr. DePazzo's remarks racist. "He said what he said on the tape. . . . He clearly doesn't consider it a racist attitude."
Mr. DePazzo said he was talking about trust in government and certain pressure groups that demand more government services. He was not talking about blacks only, Mr. DePazzo said.
He said he was particularly upset with CNN reporter Ken Bode, who says on the tape that Mr. DePazzo was using "code words about blacks who want more."
"Code words?" Mr. DePazzo fumed. "I do not use code words. My people know that."
"They danced the clip around pretty good," Mr. DePazzo said, referring to the CNN editing job. "What I had talked about was the lack of trust in political leaders altogether. And that's one of our problems in our country, that we have lost trust. And I referred to some black leaders, as well as whites."