As a matter of tradition in Baltimore, politician who dies while in office is generally replaced by his widow for the remainder of his term.
Thus it was not to be taken lightly last week when the Democratic State Central Committee in Northwest Baltimore picked someone else to replace House of Delegates member Murray R. Abramson, who died recently at the age of 73 after a generation of playing politics by the rules.
The person picked for the vacant seat was 21-year-old James H. Dorf, who happens to be the grandson of one of the city's longest reigning bosses, James H. (Jack) Pollack. What helped Dorf get the post was the presence on the committee of Pollack's granddaughter (Dorf's sister) Jayme Dorf, and the deal Pollack worked with boss Irvin Kovens (a Kovens man got a City Council seat, Pollack would get the legislature.)
"It was the most disgusting thing you ever say," said Murray Abramson's widow, Helaine, who added that "my my heart is broken anyway" by the death of her husband. James Dorf is "just a little boy who knows absolutely nothing about legislation."
"What can I say about my own grandson?" responded Pollack, who with Kovens has helped rule city politics for a generation. "Jimmy is an ambitious kid with an abundance of experience."
Dorf may not be appointed by Gov. Marvin Mandel in time for the start of the 1977 legislative session on Wednesday, however, because of a legal challenge to his sister's right to serve on the three member committee that nominated him. An attorney for a "reform" Democratic club in northwest Baltimore won a seven-day injunction of Friday contending that Jayme Dorf lives in suburban Baltimore county and is not eligible to serve on a Baltimore city central committee.
Miss Dorf, who sells cosmetics, listed her home address as the same as her brother and her parents in the city. Her father is Supreme Bench Judge Paul A. Dorf and her mother is Pollack's daughter.
Mrs. Abramson said she called the state motor vehicles administration and learned that Miss Dorf listed a suburban Baltimore address on her driver's license.
At a central committee meeting last week, Miss Dorf, on the advice of her lawyer, declined to reveal information from her driver's license.
Miss Dorf was joined in voting for her brother by committee member Morris Alperstein, a political ally and employee of Kovens.
Alperstein is "strictly a Charley McCarthy" for Kovens, Mrs. Abramson complained.
During the noisy public meeting Thursday at which Dorf was nominated, one neighborhood resident, Adrian Strauss, accused Alperstein of being "a puppet" of Kovens. Strauss' wife, Florence, said later that the process was "a whole bunch of baloney. I'm very disgusted."
The lone vote cast against Dorf, and in favor of Mrs. Abramson, came from State Sen. Rosalie S. Abrams, who successfully defeated Pollack and Kovens when the two joined forces against her in the election two years ago.
Sen. Abrams was so upset by the selection of Dorf that she announced immediately after the vote that she will introduce legislation that would require holding of a special election to fill vacancies when the unexpired term has more than one year to run. Murray Abramson's term does not expire until the end of 1979.