THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
LEXINGTON PARK, MD. — From the first days of the 1974 race for the House of Delegates, Roy Dyson has had his family working hard for him, with his mother Marie running his headquarters in Millison Plaza, his sister Patricia painting signs, his brothers Steve and JC building sign supports and erecting them across much of Maryland and his twin brother Lee standing in at events scheduled simultaneously in the hinterlands of the counties — it’s been a family affair.
In 1974 Dyson was successful in seeking one of the three delegate seats shared by Charles and St. Mary’s Counties and led the ticket in the Democratic Primary, forever earning the animosity of then-Speaker of the House John Hanson Briscoe for piling up more votes than the Speaker in his home county.
Dyson went on to run and win the Democratic nomination for Congress just two years later and ran an unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Republican First District Congressman Bob Bauman. Bauman, a rising star in the GOP for his mastery of the rules of the House of Representatives was a thorn in the side of Speaker Tip O’Neill and Dyson’s campaign was able to attract national money to his effort, but the district was fully in Bauman’s camp.
In 1978, Dyson again led the ticket for the legislative district and picked up more support as he was successful in sponsoring the Open Meetings Act – assuring at least the semblance if not the fact of the public learning what their politicians were up to; and the Bingo Bill providing a way for charities to obtain important funding.
In 1980 Dyson was again running an uphill, if not impossible campaign to unseat Bauman in the congressional district which then included the three counties of Southern Maryland as well as the nine counties of the Eastern Shore, making the district the largest geographical area of one congressional district east of the Mississippi.
Barely two months before the November 1980 General Election, a D.C. police officer arrested Rep. Bauman for soliciting sex from a 16-year-old male dancer in a gay bar and within eight weeks the meltdown from that event resulted in a money and votes changing sides and sweeping Dyson into the Congress at the age of 32 in the same election that President Ronald Reagan whipped incumbent and inept President Jimmy Carter.
As a conservative Democrat representing a conservative congressional district, Dyson was courted hard and often by the Reagan White House to cross party lines and support the new President’s legislative agenda earning him a place among the “blue dog Democrats”.
Working in his 1980 campaign was the new graduate from Towson State – John Bohanan. Bohanan, whose mother worked in the Great Mills Post Office and his dad operated a store, barber shop and rental apartments in the small crossroads of Park Hall was anxious to get a job with Dyson in his congressional office. Busy hiring the applicants from wealthy and upper crust families was Dyson’s designated Administrative Assistant, Tony Pappas. Pappas had been Dyson’s campaign manager and worked on Capitol Hill, as had Dyson. Pappas rejected Bohanan for a legislative post but Dyson intervened and Bohanan had his first job as a staffer for a Congressman, an occupation he still retains today.
Just two years later, Bohanan threw his hat in the ring for Delegate in the Democratic Primary. With Francis Taylor acting as his treasurer but without the support of Pappas, Bohanan lost the primary election to John Slade who went on to win subsequent elections until his mentor, the late Sen. J. Frank Raley Jr., got the Governor to appoint him to the District Court bench.
Bohanan kept his job with Dyson until he was successful in winning the hand of his boss’s sister in marriage and nepotism rules sent him into the private sector, landing jobs with a couple of defense contractors.
Dyson continued to fend off attempts by the GOP to win back the First Congressional District seat. In 1988 a school teacher from Kennedyville, and former Marine, Wayne Gilchrest, filed for the GOP nomination for Congress.
After winning four terms in Congress, Dyson was thought to be fairly secure in his seat.
Then came a trip to New York City to meet with various campaign donors and to end the day by taking in a performance of Phantom of the Opera.
When the presses rolled out the Sunday edition of the Washington Post that weekend, the front page of the paper included a story of monkey business in Dyson’s Congressional Office. The lurid details of the story was befitting of a tabloid in the grocery store instead of the stodgy old Washington Post still looking for another Watergate story.
With allegations of improper campaign donations from defense contractors while Dyson sat on the important Armed Services Committee, the chief focus was really weird stuff involving staffers in Dyson’s office being expected to perform a striptease at an office party. Given the parade of congressional drama, sexual extravaganzas and soap operas that have taken place since, including a Presidential impeachment, the Post story about the Dyson staff party was pretty tame stuff.
But the newspaper story propelled Pappas, who had changed his first name from Tony to “Tom”, to jump out of the tenth floor of the hotel in which he was staying in New York City.
The rumors began to swirl that Dyson and Pappas had been involved and at a press conference in Hughesville shortly thereafter, Dyson was directly asked if he was homosexual, which he flatly denied.
As the innuendos and gossip churned up the days to the General Election, Gilchrest gained more and more support and came within a whisker of whipping Dyson.
Within two years, the 1990 Republican Primary saw a baker’s dozen of candidates fighting for the chance to become the new Congressman as Dyson continued to fight to clear his name of ethics charges in the campaign finance allegations. Dyson was finally cleared by the House Ethics Committee but by that time the damage was done.
North Beach Mayor Mark Fraser was one of those who ran in the primary and he spent over $200,000 in his losing effort. All of the Republican competitors wanted to knock out Gilchrest but the voters stayed with him.
By November of that year another silver bullet appeared for Gilchrest when it was revealed that Dyson, pounding for strong action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, was himself a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War. Appearing to be hypocritical about being eager to send Americans off to a war when he himself had refused to go, was the nail in Dyson’s Congressional coffin.
The final votes came in to Dyson’s hotel election night party in Ocean City and the results were decisive with a stunning victory for Gilchrest and Dyson losing every county in the district except for his home county of St. Mary’s.
In the months following his defeat Dyson began to be a familiar figure, for the first time since high school, in his family’s home center in Great Mills, Md.
With the 1990 census and redistricting, in 1992, the Southern Maryland counties of St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles were lopped out of the First Congressional District and added to the Fifth. The new boundaries of the Fifth, represented by Steny Hoyer, included all of Prince Georges outside of the beltway and southern Anne Arundel County.
Hoyer ran against Republican Larry Hogan, who just this week was elected Maryland’s Governor, beating Hogan.
One of Hoyer’s new staffers was John Bohanan, who with his military contractor experience as well as his years in Washington and running Dyson’s district office in Waldorf, was able to provide solid advice and assistance to Hoyer who really had no knowledge of defense issues.
Dyson was itching to get back into elected office and let it be known he had his eye on the State Senate seat representing Calvert and St. Mary’s counties and held by Sen. Bernie Fowler. Fowler, knowing he had little chance of winning against Dyson in his home county bowed out gracefully. Stepping in to run as a Republican was former St. Mary’s County delegate and commissioner president, James Manning McKay. In the Democratic primary were attorney and now judge, Dave Densford; Sheriff Wayne Pettit; and former Del. John William Quade. Dyson’s vote total was larger than his three opponents combined. In November, spending less than $6,000, Dyson mopped up McKay who spent at least $50,000, which was big money in 1994.
In 1999, with Del. Slade’s appointment to the District Court by Gov. Parris Glendenning, the Democratic Central Committee which had run for the first time in twenty years on a ticket pledging publically to support Central Committee Chairman Dr. Sal Raspa to the expected vacancy, the process began to take shape. Hoyer lobbied hard on central committee members to support Bohanan and with the Congressman using his powers of persuasion, Raspa soon saw his comrades turning their coats towards the Hoyer aide. Raspa, a life-long educator, got an education in political loyalty and soon joined the inevitable. The committee sent Bohanan’s name to the Governor who made the appointment which carried over to the next general election in 2002.
While Dyson continued to vote against tax hikes, slot machines and big spending he gained an important detractor – newly elected St. Mary’s Commissioner President Tommy “Hambone” McKay. McKay beat Democrat Julie Randall in 2002 becoming the fourth Republican in 16 years to hold that post. But McKay had little use for small town politics in being a commissioner and set his eye on Annapolis and Dyson’s job.
By 2006, McKay had led his GOP majority of Kenny Dement and Larry Jarboe to running up a responsible record of making the county government more efficient, holding down taxes, funding education and making life miserable for Democrats Dan Raley and Tommy Mattingly.
McKay wasn’t going to stick around Leonardtown, nope, he was going after the State Senate seat held by Dyson and he mounted a full-fledged campaign well-funded by developers and builders.
- MARY’S TODAY newspaper revealed the McKay had lied about having obtained a college degree and he was soon spending a lot of time answering questions about his phony claims and ended up trying to blame it all on a county government secretary. While McKay was cooking up new ways to answer for his fake resume, his son Eric, now the publisher of his newspaper, was busy using his father’s copy machine to churn out fake twenty dollar bills. The fake twenties were revealed during a police investigation of a local drug dealer who got the money from the younger McKay. Tommy McKay blasted the police investigation as false and proclaimed his son innocent. The son later was convicted and McKay tried to say that some of the counterfeit money which had been placed by him in his desk in the county office building had been put there by him for safe-keeping “in the hands of the government”. Of course there are prosecutors around who would have simply called it “obstruction of justice and concealment of evidence” by a father of his son’s criminal conduct.
Combined with revelations of a scheme by McKay to give state forest land to a Baltimore developer near the St. Mary’s River State Park and McKay’s election year meltdown was swift and final ending in a significant victory for Dyson.
In 2010 won yet another term but by the smallest margin yet, when former Marine and Calvert County resident Steve Waugh, unknown to anyone in St. Mary’s County, managed to garner 48 percent of the vote. Dyson should had heeded that result to either retire or change parties but did neither.
Also in 2010, Erik Anderson mounted a strong campaign as the Republican candidate against Bohanan and fell just 750 votes shy of shooting down the rising star of Maryland politics as Bohanan had his eye on becoming Maryland’s House Speaker.
With being able to raise as much as $100,000 for his campaign and needing the undying loyalty of liberal legislators in Prince Georges, Montgomery and Baltimore City, Bohanan began amassing a voting record that represented the views of the people he would need to elect him as Speaker. In the process, Bohanan forgot about the views of the people who elected to the House.
With the 2010 census, the legislative districts of Maryland once again changed and with the Democrats in charge of the process, Bohanan was able to remove one very Republican precinct from his district which he hoped would help him counter a run by GOP opponent in 2014. Dyson’s Senate seat seemed more secure as less of Calvert was included.
Bohanan ran in 2010 and assured voters that he was conservative on fiscal issues and supported maintaining Maryland as a state where marriage was between a man and a woman.
After the 2010 election Bohanan amassed a record he would run on and from in the 2014 election. He voted for and supported the passage of the gas tax as well as 40 other tax measures during the O’Malley Administration. When it came time for the Same-Sex Marriage bill for a vote, Bohanan cast the deciding vote.
Deb Rey, the Republican who whipped Bohanan in this election was a party loyalist with no known background which would predict she will be a successful legislator. However, she was successful in connecting with the voters on the issues, especially those involving taxes and the incompetent and wasteful O’Malley Administration.
Rey was in many ways, a bulldozer who would chase down voters at various events and demand their support. Had she simply done less personal campaigning she might have increased her vote tally as many reported her persistence to be annoying.
For Bohanan, his support of far-left liberal legislative goals became known to voters and his snagging the NRA endorsement wasn’t enough to make up for hiking the gas tax and many other taxes.
Dyson mounted the weakest campaign of his time in the State Senate while his opponent tied him to O’Malley and Obama at every opportunity and the outcome was what that effort deserved.
Bohanan still has a great job, in fact, he will now get a raise from his boss. As Bohanan had to abstain from taking his congressional salary while the General Assembly was in session for three months, he will now revert to full time employment as the senior advisor to Hoyer.
With Hoyer getting a little long in the tooth, the question of who will succeed him as Congressman becomes asked more often. While the successor most likely will be a black politician from Prince Georges County, Bohanan is a well suited to reflect the liberal politics of the district as well or better than anyone else. And Hoyer is in a position to convince the PG Democrats to support his long-time aide.
One old salt of Maryland politics said recently that during a typical General Assembly session, Bohanan can get more done in one day that most legislators do in the entire three-month session.
As for Dyson he is well fixed to receive an estimated $70,000 a year in Congressional pension and another $30,000 annually for life as a Maryland legislator. Ironically, he, the conscientious objector to the Viet Nam War has now been beaten by two combat Marine veterans who risked their lives to fight for their country when Dyson would not.
District 29 will for the first time be represented by three Republicans, all of whom are knee-jerk ideologues who talk like bumper stickers. But they have a big advantage over the Democrats they are replacing – they understand that the citizens of Maryland are sick and tired of far-left wing liberal Democrats and the policies and high taxes that they have been ramming down the throats of a fed up population.
Their success into becoming effective legislators will depend on their ability to turn their bumper stickers into action.