Blount repels Boston challenge Bitterly fought race in Baltimore featured battle in courtroom; Turnout in city about 29%; Clarence Mitchell IV defeats John Jefferies for seat held by Young; Primary 1998


State Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the West Baltimore Democrat known as "the conscience of the Senate," last night withstood a challenge by Del. Frank D. Boston Jr. in a bitter race marked by Boston's legal attempts to prove that the Senate majority leader didn't live in his district.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Blount, who was first elected to the state Senate in 1970, had 68 percent of the vote in the 41st Legislative District to 30 percent for Boston.

A third candidate, Gregory Truitt, had 2 percent.

In another closely watched Democratic primary race, this one for the seat held until January by ousted state Sen. Larry Young, Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a member of one of the city's most prominent political families, had 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent for John D. Jefferies.

Jefferies, a former state delegate, was appointed by the 44th District's Democratic State Central Committee to fill the remainder of Young's term after Young was expelled by his colleagues for ethics violations.

"I feel completely validated, in terms of running the type of campaign that was about the kind of positiveness we want to bring to the 44th District," Mitchell said last night.

The primary election in the city was marked by voter lethargy and the introduction of computerized voting machines.

Election officials put the city turnout at 27.5 percent -- about what they had predicted.

"People didn't show up. They had no interest in this election," said city elections chief Barbara E. Jackson.

In the 41st District, Boston's bold challenge to Blount, a seven-term legislator and institution in West Baltimore, grew even more bitter in August, when Boston charged in a lawsuit that Blount actually lived in Pikesville and said the Northwest apartment he listed as his address was nothing more than a mail drop.

But this month, the state's highest court ruled that Blount's name could remain on the ballot, reversing a lower-court ruling that said there was "overwhelming" evidence that Blount did not live in his district.

Outside polling places yesterday, some longtime Blount supporters said they were unconcerned about the issue.

"I've been voting for him for years. I didn't see no reason to change," said Arnett Branch, 94.

Roy Bagley, 65, said he was upset that Boston filed suit against Blount.

"I think that is throwing mud to the lowest level," said Bagley, a retired ship worker. "The man has property within the area. Why shouldn't he represent the area?"

In the 44th District, Mitchell, who was elected to the House four years ago, was seeking the Senate seat once held by his father, Clarence M. Mitchell III, and uncle Michael B. Mitchell.

Mitchell's rich political legacy also includes his late grandfather Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., the revered Capitol Hill lobbyist for the NAACP, and his great-uncle, Parren J. Mitchell, a 16-year veteran of Congress.

Besides Blount and Jefferies, only two of the city's other Democratic state senators faced a primary opponent in the districts predominantely or solely in Baltimore.

In East Baltimore's 45th Legislative District, Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden got 86 percent of the vote, with three challengers splitting the remaining votes.

In Northwest's 42nd, Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the influential Budget and Taxation Committee, had 88 percent of the votes, compared with 12 percent for Elinor Hoffman Kerpelman, a first-time candidate. Nearly three-quarters of the precincts had reported.

Sens. Ralph M. Hughes from the west side's 40th District, Joan Carter Conway from Northeast's 43rd, Perry Sfikas in Southeast's 46th and George W. Della Jr. in South Baltimore's 47th had no primary opponents.

On the Republican side, the only contested primary for state senator -- or delegate -- was in the 47th, where Robert B. Lewis won a three-way race with 41 percent of the vote.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans in the city by more than 8-to-1, success in the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory in the general election.

Besides Della, the only other Baltimore state senator to face a Republican challenger in November is Hughes, who is being opposed by Melvin E. Stubbs. Conway faces an independent challenge by Nimrod Westcott Jr.

In the House races, all of the city's incumbent delegates who were running for re-election won their primary races.

In the 41st, the lone incumbent delegate in the race, Nathaniel T. Oaks, was joined by newcomers Lisa A. Gladden and Wendell F. Phillips. In the 44th, the only incumbent, Del. Ruth M. Kirk, was joined by Verna Jones and Jeffrey A. Paige.

In the 43rd, community activist Pat Gorman appeared to fall short in her bid for a House seat. Gorman got 20 percent of the vote to trail Del. Ann Marie Doory with 25 percent and Dels. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and Michael V. Dobson, each with 24 percent.

There are Republican challengers in November in only two of the districts, the 42nd and 47th.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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