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New leaders emerge from Democrats' coup Columbia club aims to regain former influence


The Columbia Democratic Club celebrated its 25th anniversary last week by rejecting the slate of its nominating committee in favor of a slate headed by former vice president Wanda Hurt.

Among those overthrown in the coup were former club president Philip Blustein, who was running for re-election; former Human Rights Commission chairman Marshall Spurlock; Democratic Central Committee member Kenneth A. Stevens; and former club president Kristine Zornig.

Attorney James B. Kraft nominated the opposition slate in a resolution that called for the balloting to remain open until 7:35 p.m.

Some members had said that the change of meeting time from 7:30 to to 7 p.m. was in violation of the club's bylaws.

Kraft's motion said that keeping the ballot open until 7:35 p.m. "would alleviate any potential compliance problems as well as any allegations of unfairness or impropriety."

When Blustein suggested the club give each candidate two minutes to speak, he was shouted down. Afterward, Kraft said speeches were not necessary and were not an issue. "Everyone who came tonight knew who they were going to vote for," he said.

The victory for Hurt and her slate was so secure that after the meeting Hurt passed out business cards printed with the club logo and identifying her as president.

"This has been some experience -- a divergence of opinion between myself, Jim Kraft and Wanda Hurt," Blustein said. "I was trying to build a stronger executive committee, but in the process the coalition was steam-rollered. The other side did their homework. A lot of old members turned out today."

The meeting drew such luminaries as former County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo, former Del. William Bevan and former County Councilman Lloyd Knowles. All were defeated in the 1990 election.

Council chairman Paul R. Farragut, of the 4th District, showed up, as did 1st District Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass. Just before the voting, Pendergrass urged the membership to elect Hurt. It did so overwhelmingly.

Hurt received 55 votes to Blustein's 15. Kraft bested Zornig for treasurer, 47 to 21. John Hansen, the newly elected Columbia Council chairman, was elected vice president over Spurlock, 39 to 29. Judy Haxton, whom Blustein had fired as the club's newsletter editor, was elected secretary over club nominee C. Howard Strahler Jr., 53 to 17.

Former club president Dennis D'Adamo was elected an at-large board member with 51 votes. Stevens had 26. Pearl Atkinson-Stewart and Beatrice Montague were also elected board members at-large, with 58 and 55 votes, respectively.

Kraft called the election of himself, Hurt and the other members of the slate an important first step in helping restore the club to a position of power and influence.

"For 10 years, it was common for press reports to refer to the club as the powerful and influential Columbia Democratic Club," Kraft said. "After viewing the 1990 election, a lot of people became active again. This is their attempt to bring things back the way they used to be."

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