Prince George's state Sen. Tommie Broadwater Jr., convicted earlier this summer on charges of food stamp fraud, is pressing county politicians to appoint his wife or his younger brother as his replacement in the Maryland Senate upon his sentencing this fall.
"It would be my preference. My wife would be ideal, and if not, my brother," said Broadwater, reached at the supermarket he owns in Chapel Oaks.
"The people of the community would love to have our leadership. When you look at the community [you see] they are behind me 100 percent. . . . The main concern should be to keep the district together."
Broadwater, 43, the county's only black state senator and one of the most influential black leaders in Maryland politics, said he first thought of asking a member of his family to replace him soon after his conviction in July on five counts of food stamp fraud. He broached the idea to other elected officials from his 24th legislative district at a meeting at his office two weeks ago. Another meeting was set for last Tuesday, to which black officials from other districts were invited, but that meeting was canceled because of a scheduling conflict.
Asked yesterday if she would apply for the seat, Lillian Broadwater declined to comment. Otis Broadwater could not be reached.
Since his conviction in late July, political activists have mentioned the names of more than a dozen possible successors, including each of the three delegates in the district, Councilman Floyd Wilson, school board member Bonnie Johns, Orhans Court Judge and former Broadwater rival Decatur Trotter, and District Court Judge Sylvania Woods Sr.
Of these, only Wilson and Del. Sylvania Woods Jr. have said they are definitely not candidates. Woods, however, circulated a letter several weeks ago in support of the candidacy of his father, Judge Woods. But the elder Woods declined comment on his intentions yesterday.
Gary Alexander, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee, which must choose Broadwater's replacement, said no discussion should occur until after Broadwater is sentenced in October. But several of the other 21 committee members yesterday indicated that Broadwater would face an uphill battle in his bid to obtain the seat for a member of his family.
"I have a lot of difficulty with that," said Jeanette Gordy, a committee representative from Greenbelt. "I don't know any members of the family. Someone would have to provide some documentation. I think the job should go to the most qualified person."
Other members, asking not to be identified, gave similar opinions. Said one, "There's no way."
Broadwater declined to elaborate on the qualifications of either Lillian or Otis Broadwater, and he insisted that his efforts to press the candidacies are "very low key."
But he also said that he was concerned that the district not be "divided" by candidates competing for the interim appointment " . . . to make sure that we can continue to communicate with the whites."
County councilman Wilson, the council's senior black member and a longtime Broadwater associate, said Broadwater "feels that a family member would accept the position for just that instead of trying to make political hay. . . . His concern is, you lose that control if you appoint someone outside the family."
Wilson said he might support a Broadwater family member for the post because he does not want to see another black official resign to take an interim appointment, only to face the possibility of being out of office altogether if Broadwater is exonerated.
Under Maryland law, Broadwater, convicted along with his daughter and three others of fraudulently obtaining $70,000 worth of food stamps, must be replaced, upon sentencing, by an interim appointee who will serve until all Broadwater's appeals are exhausted. If the conviction is upheld, a permanent appointee will then be selected.