- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

He shows up frequently at political events and public gatherings in Prince George's County, usually wearing campaign T-shirts with slogans like "Broadwater: Unbossed and unbought" or simply "Tommie's Back!"
The truth is, Tommie Broadwater Jr. has been back for a while.
The longtime Prince George's County power broker is making another bid to resurrect his once-promising political career, stunted 20 years ago by a federal conviction for food stamp fraud.
Mr. Broadwater, 60, has run for office several times since he served time in prison during the early 1980s. The former state senator tried and failed twice to win back his old seat in what was then District 24. He also lost a 1992 bid for Congress.
This year is different, he says. The bail bondsman is running for an open state Senate seat in a newly created District 47 that hugs the D.C. border.
He says he'll reclaim a spot in Annapolis, despite the efforts of some county leaders the bosses he refers to on his T-shirts to keep him off the ballot by drawing the district so that his home was outside it. Mr. Broadwater moved from Upper Marlboro to Mount Rainier so he could run in the new district.
"I've paid my debt to society, and I think I've been a pretty good citizen for the past 20 years," he said. "I've been in Annapolis, and I've delivered, and I have a record that speaks for itself."
But he's had a hard time winning support from county leaders and some former allies. Several have backed opponents in the race, while others aren't endorsing a candidate.
Rep. Albert Wynn, Maryland Democrat, who represents the area, got his start in politics handing out fliers for Mr. Broadwater. But Mr. Wynn said he's backing a ticket headed by Broadwater opponent Gwendolyn Britt. Sen. Paul Pinsky, Prince George's Democrat, who lost part of his old district to the new 47th, also supports Mrs. Britt.
"I want a person who represents the future of Prince George's," Mr. Pinsky said. "The people will have to decide for themselves if Tommie represents the future of Prince George's."
Mr. Broadwater's legacy is well grounded in the county's past.
A lifelong resident, he built a fortune from a business enclave he owns in Fairmount Heights, a small empire that includes his bail bond office, a barbecue restaurant, a liquor store and a motel.
He's become a power broker in the region, a mixture of middle-class families and poverty that is a hallmark of many of the county's communities on the D.C. border. People often come to him for loans or help, and his cell phone rings constantly.
Mr. Broadwater got involved in county politics in the late 1960s, just when Prince George's started to shift from a largely white county to a majority black suburb.
His close ties in the border communities made him one of the first black political leaders in the county, popularity that he used to become Prince George's first black state senator in 1974.
During his 10 years in Annapolis, Mr. Broadwater didn't wield significant clout in the legislature. But in Prince George's, his influence grew large. His blessing was considered a prerequisite for blacks to get county jobs, giving him the nickname "Godfather."
"He was one of the first prominent black leaders to step forth," said former County Executive Winfield Kelly, who served while Mr. Broadwater was in office. "If he gave you his word, he stuck to it. In politics, that is pretty important."
But Mr. Broadwater's influence came crashing down in 1983, when he was caught using a grocery store he owned to launder $70,000 worth of food stamps. As a felon, he was forced to give up his seat. He served four months in prison.
About his conviction, Mr. Broadwater says only that he's served his time, and "let's leave it at that." But he concedes his criminal record may have contributed to his failures in attempting to regain his Senate seat.
Sitting in his storefront campaign office, Mr. Broadwater looks a bit like a throwback to an earlier era. He wears his thick hair high, looks through tinted glasses and sports diamond rings and a diamond bracelet. Every 10 minutes or so his cell phone rings and he answers it, saying "Broad'er bonding."
Even though his political career was rooted in a different Prince George's, a county then on the cusp of racial change, Mr. Broadwater says he can be a bridge between the old and the new.
"Prince George's has changed from a predominantly white county to a predominantly minority county," he said. "But on the political side, it hasn't changed that much."
He still holds some sway in county politics. He used to baby-sit for current County Executive Wayne Curry, and has remained tight with Mr. Curry. His campaign material says he is an "advisor" to Mr. Curry, which Mr. Broadwater says is an unofficial post. Mr. Curry didn't return calls seeking comment.
"We say, 'Once a senator, always a senator,'" said Ulysses Currie, one of three black senators from Prince George's. "He still remains active in Prince George's County politics."
Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Democratic leaders in the legislature drew District 47 to include towns such as Bladensburg, Cheverly and parts of Landover Hills. The population of the district, with its U-shaped boundaries, is a mixture of different economic classes and races. More than half of the residents are black and a quarter are Hispanic.
Many people believe the district was created for Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, head of the county's House delegation and a Cheverly resident. But Mr. Baker decided to run for county executive instead, leaving District 47 with no clear front-runner.


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