Gene M. Raynor

Re­tired city, state elec­tions ad­min­is­tra­tor was close ally of Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer and a classic po­lit­i­cal strate­gist

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­

Gene Michael Raynor, a re­tired top city and state elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tor re­called as an old-fash­ioned po­lit­i­cal strate­gist, died of heart dis­ease Satur­day at Union Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal. He was 80.

“It’s hard to imag­ine an elec­tion in Bal­ti­more with­out Gene Raynor,” said Mary­land Sen. Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski. “From the time he was a young man work­ing as a clerk to be­ing chief of Mary­land’s elec­tion board, Gene was a fix­ture and a font of in­for­ma­tion on all things Mary­land elec­tions.

“His an­nual New Year’s Day party was must-at­tend for any Bal­ti­more politi­cian, would-be politi­cian or has-been politi­cian,” said Ms. Mikul­ski, a Demo­crat. “He knew how to or­ga­nize and strate­gize, but never an­tag­o­nized.”

“He was a walk­ing en­cy­clo­pe­dia of Bal­ti­more elec­tion lore,” said Paul Oliver, owner of Dale­sio’s of Lit­tle Italy restau­rant, where Mr. Raynor was a former part­ner.

“With his glasses on the top of his head, he would study the precinct maps. He was a num­bers guy,” said Mr. Oliver. “His pre­dic­tions would gen­er­ally be ac­cu­rate. Re­porters would flock to him.

“Gene didn’t play golf,” he said. “Pol­i­tics was his game.”

Born in Bal­ti­more and raised in High­land­town, he was the son of Harry Raynor, a So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­ec­u­tive, and his wife, Pauline.

He was a 1953 grad­u­ate of Pat­ter­son Park High School and earned a de­gree at the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more School of Law.

While in his 20s, he was pres­i­dent of the Blue Crest Young Men’s Demo­cratic Club. A 1983 Evening Sun pro­file said Mr. Raynor grew up in a world of white mar­ble steps, painted screens and “high voter turnout.”

In 1958 he was a law clerk to Carmine J. Granese, an at­tor­ney whose fam­ily lived in Lit­tle Italy. Mr. Raynor soon be­came like a sec­ond son to then-state Sen. Joseph Ber­torelli, for whom he cam­paigned. The pair re­mained close al­lies un­til Mr. Ber­torelli’s death in 1976.

Mr. Raynor also be­came a close as­so­ciate of former Bal­ti­more Mayor Thomas J. D’Ale­san­dro III.

When he was 18, Mr. Raynor re­ceived a part-time job as an elec­tions clerk at the Bal­ti­more City Board of Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sors. In1970 he was named deputy city elec­tions ad­min­is­tra­tor un­der Frank J. “Bud” McQuade.

After Mr. McQuade’s death in 1979, Mr. Raynor took the top city post.

The 1983 Evening Sun ar­ti­cle said Mr. Raynor “ob­served pol­i­tics, played with statis­tics and kept a well schooled eye on po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions.”

Mr. Raynor was an ally of Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer, who served as Bal­ti­more mayor, then gover­nor, then state comptroller. Mr. Raynor helped raise cam­paign funds for him, and after Mr. Schae­fer was elected gover­nor, he named Mr. Raynor to head the State Ad­min­is­tra­tive Board of Elec­tion Laws.

“Gene was one of Bal­ti­more’s all-time char­ac­ters, lifted right out of a po­lit­i­cal novel,” said former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Repub­li­can who also be­came a friend. “He was close to Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer, but they fought like brothers. They com­plained about each other all the time.

“Schae­fer had a great deal of re­spect for his knowl­edge and acu­men,” said Mr. Ehrlich. “Gene knew city pol­i­tics bet­ter than any­one I ever met.”

“No­body knew the elec­tion laws like Gene did,” said state Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for mayor. “He was a won­der­ful guy.”

Mr. Raynor re­tired from the state post in 1997.

The city’s elec­tion board named him its chief in early 2006. He re­turned to his old post and held it for less than a year when he re­signed after a par­ti­san squab­ble fol­low­ing that year’s pri­mary elec­tion. In that pri­mary, Mr. Schae­fer was run­ning for comptroller in what would be his fi­nal cam­paign. Mr. Raynor re­al­ized his friend was in trouble. He re­ceived early, un­of­fi­cial counts re­gard­ing Mr. Schae­fer’s per­for­mance at three key polling places — Lit­tle Italy, Can­ton and High­land­town — and called po­lit­i­cal al­lies to warn them his old friend’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer had ended.

Amer­i­can Joe Miedusiewski, a former Mary­land state se­na­tor and a Demo­crat, re­called once ask­ing Mr. Raynor about close elec­tions that re­sulted in re­counts. “He told me, ‘Joe, if they don’t have it [the votes] they don’t get it.’

At the time of his re­tire­ment in 2006, The Bal­ti­more Sun said: “Raynor’s an­swer­ing ma­chine at his home in Bal­ti­more’s Lit­tle Italy neigh­bor­hood has long of­fered a sim­ple greet­ing: ‘Not in. Leave mes­sage.’ No frills, straight for­ward, to the point. That’s Raynor — Bal­ti­more’s elec­tions di­rec­tor and a fix­ture on the city and state elec­tion scene.”

The ar­ti­cle de­scribed him as a “short, stocky man whose pen­chant for ca­sual dress makes him seem more like the head of a bowl­ing league than an elec­tions of­fice.”

“He was loyal to the peo­ple he loved,” said former state Sen. John A. Pica Jr., a Demo­crat. “He had an in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory and had great po­lit­i­cal in­stincts. I never knew him to pick a loser. He knew peo­ple by their ward and precinct.”

Mr. Raynor had other in­ter­ests. In the late 1970s he bought the Wa­ter­front Ho­tel, a bar and restau­rant in Fells Point that be­came a gath­er­ing place for his le­gion of friends. Mr. Raynor of­ten dined there with Mr. Schae­fer and the gover­nor’s friend, Hilda Mae Snoops.

He­was also a part­ner at Dale­sio’s of Lit­tle Italy, but had re­lin­quished his role there in re­cent years. For a short time he man­aged The Crease in Tow­son.

At Mr. Raynor’s re­quest, fu­neral ser­vices were pri­vate.

Sur­vivors in­clude a sis­ter, Marie Rodgers, and a niece, Tru­dine N. Cal­li­nan, both of Bal­ti­more. “Pol­i­tics was his game,” restau­ra­teur Paul Oliver, a former part­ner, said of Gene Raynor.

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