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The Nose

All in the Family

Posted 10/17/2001

Last time the Nose checked, heirs to public office were members of royal families, in countries ruled by monarchs. And the last time we checked, this hasn't been a monarchy for 225 years. So why are so many people claiming the right to succeed the late Bea Gaddy on Baltimore's City Council? It seems Gaddy's so-called legacy--of feeding Baltimore's poor--is quickly being eclipsed by another type of hunger: the voracious pursuit of political power.

Since Gaddy's Oct. 3 death, two separate camps have been making claims to her seat, while bullying other potential candidates into not running. Meanwhile, folks about town who have zero interest in the job are getting calls informing them they're "on the list" to succeed Gaddy (whose list, they're not being told)--a ruse, we reckon, to make the process appear somehow democratic.

The process for replacing Gaddy should be straightforward: The appointment is made by the council, after a public hearing in which all hopefuls may testify. If history serves as any precedent, "councilmanic courtesy" will hold and council members will select someone chosen by Gaddy's surviving 2nd District colleagues, Paula Johnson Branch and Bernard "Jack" Young.

But things are rarely so simple in the 2nd, which stretches east to west across the guts of the city and represents wealthy residents and businesses alongside thousands of homeless, addicted, and poor people. The district's politics have long been dominated by the Eastside Democratic Organization (EDO), which gets the biggest say in everything from who gets public contracts to who wins public office. No surprise, then, that EDO essentially claims a lawful right to Gaddy's seat. And with organization operatives Branch and Young already in place on the council, a bet on EDO candidate Alphonso Barney, who finished behind non-EDO-er Gaddy in the 1999 election, would seem well-placed.

But where there are oligarchies, there is often dissent, and the campaign to overrule EDO on Gaddy's replacement is claiming its own right to succession, via Gaddy's eldest daughter. Armed with "documentation" from Gaddy herself that she wanted her progeny to pick up where she left off, Sandra Briggs declared on Oct. 11 her intention to deliver on her mother's wish. But under the guise of keeping up the family's good work, the Nose sniffs another power grab in the making. At Briggs' side--and, by all appearances, running the show--was Sarah Mathews, another '99 candidate in the 2nd. Briggs also has the backing of the East Baltimore Political Educational Organization (EBPEO), an EDO foe. Prior to Briggs' announcement, EBPEO--which counts 1999 also-rans Ronald Mu'min Owens-Bey and Doris Minor-Terrell among its leaders--publicly demanded that EDO make way for Briggs and "the continuation of Ms. Gaddy's work," and "not interfere with or make this process of succession [emphasis the Nose's] a sham by sliding one of their cronies into the City Council."

When not undermining each other, the EDO and Briggs camps have been lobbying Baltimore Times associate publisher and longtime local politico Anthony McCarthy--the only real threat to their respective plans--not to seek Gaddy's seat. While he's keeping tight-lipped about his intentions, the Nose hears tell of a persistent pro-McCarthy push among political and corporate muckety-mucks in the 2nd's west side. But without kinship to either the district's east-side power center or its late council member, McCarthy would doubtless be in for a rough ride.

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