Davis J. Tomasin, oldest son of a prominent Jersey City lawyer, decided in the summer of 1966 that he would run for Congress. He has been running ever since. This year he turned 25, and is actually old enough to hold the job.
Virtually everything that Tomasin has done since he was 14 years old has been in preparation for his race this year in Maryland's 5th Congressional District Democratic primary. The college he went to, the jobs he has held, the campaigns he has worked in, the suits he has worn, the haircuts he has gotten, the cigars he has smoked, the jokes he has learned, the books he has read, the parties he has attended - all of this, he admits, has been calculated to further his political career.
The fact that Tomasin is a decided underdog in his primary campaign against Rep. Glady's Noon Spellman (D-Prince George's) has very little to do with his story. His is the story, as one acquaintance in Prince George's County put it, of "the classic political junkie."
In Tomasin's case, the addiction was inherited. His father, John Tomasin, has been regarded since the 1950s as one of the most adept campaign organizers and speechwriters in Hudson County, N. J.
"Dad never ran for office himself," Tomasin said the other day. "But he was out all the time, almost every night, going to this meeting or that rally. I remember always saying: 'Hey, Dad, where ya going?' Usually he'd end up taking me along to the political clubs and union halls, and I loved it. I decided that's what America's all about."
After tagging along with his father for several years, the tall, blond Tomasin was faced with his first career decision: where to go to college. The choice was based on one factor - politics.
"I knew, first of all, that it had to be a college near Washington, because that's where the real political action is," explained Tomasin. "My father gave me the names of some of his lawyer friends in downtown D.C., and we called them up to analyze the political situation in various places near the capital.
"A lot of them recommended the University of Maryland. I found out what county it was in (prince Georges), what the politics were like, who the players were. It seemed like the perfect place."
Tomasin ecrolled at the University of Maryland in the fall of 1970 at a time when antiwar protests were a regular part of campus life. Although his sentiments were against U.S. imvolvement in Vietnam. Tomasin made a deliberate effort not to antagonize those who supported it. He kept his hair short ("stylishly trimmed," he says) and, in his three-piece, pinstriped suits, looked more like a Jaycee than a student.
This approach paid off for Tomasin during his first few months on campus, helping him land a volunteer job in Sen. Hubert Humphrey's office and, during the hours he spent on campus, establish a rapport with university and state officials. Tomasin claims that he played a key role as an intermediary during campus disputes as a 17-year-old freshman.
"Everything was the freaks versus the straights back then, and I situated myself right in the middle. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
"I rember this one night I was coming back to campus after a long day at Sen. Humphrey's office and I bumped into Madison Jones the leader of the protesters. Madison told me he was going to meet with the head of the National Guard, which was on campus, to try to lift a curfew they had imposed. I came along.
"When we got to the police headquarters where the meeting was to take place, we were told that the general wouldn't meet with us. Madison stormed out of the room. I, by default, became the spokesman for the students. It was one of my more impressive moments. I was very articulate and convinced then to push back the curfew from 6 to 10 p.m."
This story is but one of dozens that Tomasin tells about his political career. They all have two things in common: Tomasin is always pictured as a central figure in the major events of the day, and he is always linked personally to the top politicians.
By his own account, during those first four years in Washington. Tomasin was everywhere: here working to soften Humphrey's position on the war; there convincing the National Guard to lift a curfew; now turning from Humphrey to McGovern and helping the South Dakota senator win the crucial Wisconsin primary; here leading an effort to place two student on the board of regents; there traveling to California with McGovern; now joining the county campaign in 1974 and helping Winfield M. Kelly Jr. become a winner in the county executive's race.
As is often the case in the mercurial world of politics. Tomasin's recollections on his involvement differ somewhat from what others remember about him. Almost all of the central figures in the various campaigns remember Tomasin, but very few recall precisely what he did. "I remember Davis hanging around, looking old for his age, always trying to get into the conversations," said one former Humphrey aide. "The guy was dripping with ambition, and he sure as hell talked a good show."
In 1975, shortly after he took office, Kelly found a job for Tomasin in his administration. Here, too, Tomasin's account of his role differs with what others remember about him.
Tomasin says he played a major role in policy decisions during his 14 months with Kelly and that the two men had a "Grudging admiration' for each other. "My only problem was that I wasn't a yes man like John Lally or John McDonough (Kelly's two top aides)," he said.
Kelly and the two aides says Tomasin was constantly "messing up," for getting appointments and "harassing" young women county employes.
Tomasin admits that he was what he called "a womanizer." "It's legal," he said. "I'm a bachelor. I like to work hard and party hard." His relationships with women got him into difficulties. Tomasin said, because he refused to treat any of his affairs seriously.
"I've always been self-oriented," he said.
In 1976, Tomasin left Kelly's office to work as an assistant for Secretary of State Fred Wineland in Annapolis. Kelly says he was "relieved" to be rid of Tomasin. Tomasin said he left on his own accord to further his political development.
"I'd always try to get up to Annapolis at the end of each session when they have the parties," he said."I like to mingle, I'm a bachelor, I'm attractive, I'm young. So I went up there at the end of the 1976 session and bumped into Fred Wineland at a party at the Hilton. I told him I was looking around and he offered me a job."
He worked hard in the new job for several months, but eventually ran out of things to do. "I was getting lazy, collecting pay checks and sitting around. There was nothing being done, nothing going on."
In September 1977, Tomasin quit his statehouse job and devoted his full attention to his 12-year dream - running for Congress.
On June 10, in the student cafeteria at the University of Maryland, the "25-year-old kid" formally announced for Congress. His speech mentioned Adlai Stevenson, John Winthrop, Pericles, Woodrow Wilson, Ben Franklin, Woody Guthrie, Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy and William Henry Harrison.
"I welcome you to set sail on a new and challenging voyage," he said, his parents at his side. "Our timbers have been hardened by the example of our forebears of Bunker Hill and Yorktown. Our sails have been sewn by the hands of rich and poor, black and white, Protestant, Catholic and Jew alike. At the helm are the words of Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and King. To navigate, we shall follow the star of freedom."
This was the quintessential Davis John Tomasin - a composite of everything he had seen and heard since he was 14 years old.120