The day after the democratic organization in Prince George's County dropped County Council Chairman Francis P. White from the state of candidates it would support in the upcoming election, the chairman looked like a defeated man. Shoulders slumped, he walked around the council session that Tuesday last June visibly shaken. He said he was confused and disappointed, said he had no idea what he would do next.
Now, three months later White is cool and confident as he moves around the 26th Legislative District stumping for ovtes as a House of Delegates candidate. While a relative newcomer to the district, he relies heavily on his 16 years in elected office, on his name recognition and on the hint that he was somehow a casualty of the organization's slate-making process.
Proclaiming himself "The People's Democrat" on billboards placed throughout the district,he has effectively separated himself both from the slate and from the five other Democrats who are running as independents in the race.
White is now looked upon by party regulars and by observers in the community as having a good chance of beating - as a House of Delegates candidate - at least two of the members of the very slate from which he was dumped as a county council candidate.
For in this district which stretches from the thickly settled apartment complexes of Suitland to the quiet residential communities of Kettering, the slate of candidates who call themselves "Democrats '78" - who is on it and how they got there - has become a major campaign issue.
Property taxes, crime and public transportation are still talked about at the various coffees and the candidate's forums held around the district. But in the silence that falls after a discussion of the issues comes the inevitable, "Well, and there is the machine."
Political observers agree that this is the first time in years the selection of a Democratic ticket has engendered so much animosity from party workers in the district, animosity that hurts a primary campaign which traditionally has a small voter turnout.
This year the machine" - as many antiorganization Democrats call the "Democrats '77" slate - had three vacancies to fill in the 26th District. The seat vacated by State Sen. Steny Hoyer in his bid for lieutenant governor was bequeathed to Del. B.W. Mike Donovan who will run unopposed in both the primary and general elections.
The two house seats were to Dennis Donaldson, a retired policeman who is now a coach in District Heights, and John Williams, a black foreign language teacher at Fairmont Heights High School. They are running on the ticket with incumbent Dee Lorraine Sheehan.
As soon as the two men were chosen, the gripes started. Many Hoyer loyalists fell "junked" by their leader and the organization they had supported.
"The committee took Denny (Donaldson) and they pulled him out of the woodwork," Shirley Mohr said last week. A District Heights community adviser, Mohr sought a place on the ticket, was rejected and later filed as an independent. "This was a slap in the face to people like Frank Broschart who has been running since January. And Alex Reid, he has been around and has paid every dues he could in this district and they pick John Williams instead."
After Reid and Broschart, both teachers in the county's schools, and Paul James, a Hillcrest Heights computer committee for delegate slots, they, too, decided to run as independent candidates.
Harry Durity, a former county attorney from Suitland, said he did not even try to get the Democratic organization's support. "I didn't want to ask for anyone's blessing" Durity said. "I didn't want to get committed to a special interest, have my hands tied if I were sent to Annapolis."
Donaldson is aware that, while the organization endorsement gives him a potential edge in his battle for recognition in the crowded race, the balance of power is still very fragile. At a recent appearance before a small audience of young Democrats, Donaldson told the group he was running for the House."
"Boy am I running," he added.
Incumbent Sheehan, recognized as probably the number one vote-getter in the district, is not as concerned as her lesser-known running mates. Sheehan believes her legislative experience and her constituent service are reason enough or reelection.
"I want to go back because I've done a damn good job down there," Sheehan said.
Her independent opponent, Frank Broschart, who has been preparing for this race since 1972, agreed with Sheehan's feeling that door-to-door campaigning will be the key to the race.
"I've been campaigning since December and next week I will have finished going door to every registered Democrat in the district." Broschart, who considers himself one of the top five contenders in the race added, "This is the beginning of the unraveling of the machine."
Broschart said the "backlash against the slate has been a boon" to his campaign. But he said he fears he may be faced with a backlash of his own.
In 1970 Broschart received a full gubernatorial pardon after he was imprisoned for 18 months on a bad check charge. And, while he does not hide his record he said, he believes rumors circulated in the campaign about his prison record was unfair. "The matter is settled," he said, "that was 12 years ago."
White also comes to the race while the memories of the controversy he was involved in are still fresh. His use of funds from testimonials led the Democrats '78 selection committee, its members said, to keep him off the ticket.
White ignores those rumors. "This district has waited patiently for services that other newer areas have easily received," White said. "There is still not a library here, and there are problems with crime, with highway taxes, with the Metro going to Rosecroft away from the district instead of Branch Avenue where it is needed."
The other candidates, including the Republicans John Simpson and Jo White's assessement of the issues.
Republicans John Simpson and Joseph Finlayson have no opponents in the primary race, and so will pass directly into the general election.