Former State Sen. Steny Hoyer, who led the Prince George's County Democratic Party until defeat in the 1978 lieutenant governor's race, said yesterday that he has turned down a request by party leaders that he fill a vacant seat on the county council.
Hoyer said he decided to stay out of public life for at least another year and pursue his law practice, despite an effort by party leaders to draft him as a replacement for council member Francis B. Francois, who will leave his seat Sept. 5.
Hoyer's name emerged unexpectedly this weekend after weeks of effort by the party's central committee failed to produce a condidate on whom all factions of the divided party could agree.
Central committee members, council leaders and other groups of Democratic office holders met several times last week to consider a list of six remaining candidates for the Francois seat.
It was during one of these meetings that longtime Hoyer friend. State Sen. Jack Garrity, first proposed drafting Hoyer as a solution to the lack of leadership and increasing disarray the party has faced since 1978.
The movement won the support of othergroups of party officials, through most of them apparently doubted Hoyer would agree to being a candidate.
Re-entering politics, particularly asthe party's leader, would have curtailed Hoyer's successful law practice. In addition, friends say Hoyer is more interested in a state office than in being county executive, the logical progression from the council.
Those doubts turned out to be correctyesterday when Hoyer telephoned Democratic party officials and said no.
"My gut reaction is that this is not the thing to do," Hoyer said. "It would not be in the best interest of theparty or myself at this point.
"I have expressed a desire to get back into public life but this came only Friday afternoon and after [the party had gone through] a long process. I can see where people would legitimately resent that process being changed in midstream," said.
Several party officials, including Garrity, said yesterday they will make one further effort to convince Hoyer totake the seat when they get together at a leadership meeting to consider the six other candidates.
That meeting, scheduled for today, will allow party leaders to consider the list of six alternatives drawn up bythe party's central committee after two months of public hearings and meetings.
If the Hoyer candidacy is not revived at that meeting, the party leaders will have to sift through the list and try to agree on three or four names to send back to the central committee. The committee then will send three names to the county council, which has until Oct. 5 to choose Francois' successor.
Party officials said yesterday that with the Hoyer alternative removed, the meeting today is likely to produce little agreement. However, many party members hope the meeting will markthe revival of the Democrats' regular "breadfast Club" meetings wherethe party leadership got together to reach a consensus on appointments andissues.
The breakfast club was disbanded in 1978 after Hoyer ran and lost his race for lieutenant governor and the party's other leader, Winfield M. Kelly, lost his reelection bid Republican Lawrence J. Hogan.
Since that time, the once-powerful county Democrats have been weak and divided.
While many hope a rejuvenated breakfast club -- or "coordinating committee" as the Democrats are fond or referring to it -- will allow the the party to master its disarray, others worry that the entire effort also will revive charge frequently heard in the past of Democratic machine politics.