Two major Baltimore political groups yesterday endorsed the gubernatorial candidacy of Maryland Acting Gov. Blair Lee III, helping him defuse charges that he and his running mate, Senate President Steny H. Hoyer, are the candidates of the Washington suburbs.
Three Democratic state legislators from the voter-rich Jewish community of Northwest Baltimore - Sen. Rosalie S. Abrams, Del. Benjamin L. Cardin and Del. Steven V. Sklar - emphasized Lee's past interest in the city as they endorsed him on the front steps of the State House here.
Sen. Verda F. Welcome, leader of a strong black Democratic organization in West Baltimore, also gave her club's blessing to the Lee-Hoyer ticket, pointing out that the acting governor and Senate president have displayed "sensitivity" to blacks and city dwellers.
The endorsement of the two potent Baltimore political groups have a symbolic importance for Lee, who has been accused of favoring the Washington area because of his residency in Montgomery County and Hoyer's residence in Prince George's.
In recent weeks, Attorney General Francis (Bill) Burch, who is also running for governor, charged Lee with pitting "the monied interests of the Washington suburbs against the Baltimores." Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis, another contender, has sounded a similar theme.
"Steny and I have gotten a bum rap about being unsympathetic outlanders from another part of the state," Lee said at a joint press conference with the three Northwest Baltimore leader. "We reiterate our concern and our commitment to Baltimore's economic stability."
In addition to the symbolic significance, the endorsements have a practical importance for the September Democratic primary. Abrams' district is one of the highest voting in Maryland. Voters in Welcome's organization are well-disciplined and generally follow the endorsements of their leaders.
Yesteryday's endorsements were the first major ones of the campaign for Lee. He is expected to pick up organization support in most districts of Baltimore. Venetculis has received the endorsement of South Baltimore Del. Paul E. Weisengoff.