Declaring that schools and crime are getting worse in Baltimore, state Sen. Julian L. Lapides says he is considering challenging incumbent Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
Lapides, the legislative gadfly from Bolton Hill who is serving his 29th year in the General Assembly, said yesterday that he is weighing the advice of people who are urging him to run against Schmoke in the September Democratic primary.
"I've been extremely concerned about the schools and crime, and I think we are going backward," Lapides said. "The death toll, we were told, would be reduced. But it's going up. I just think we've got to rethink city government."
Lapides cautioned that he still is in the "embryonic" stages of considering a run for mayor, but he added that he is being urged on by "several senators and several people in politics who think the city needs the change."
Lapides also said that running against Schmoke would be painful, because he was one of the first elected officials to support Schmoke during the 1987 mayoral campaign.
"I think he's tried very hard," Lapides said. "And I also think that we need some significant changes."
Lapides also said he is "disgusted" that Schmoke has proposed moving Bolton Hill from the 2nd to the 4th District in his council redistricting plan.
News of a possible Lapides challenge caught Schmoke's political camp off guard. "I just don't believe that. I do not believe Jack Lapides is running for mayor," said Larry Gibson, Schmoke's campaign chairman. "This is the first suggestion that I've heard of that."
Should Lapides challenge Schmoke, the senator would be waging an uphill financial battle.
Lapides said that he has less than $15,000 in campaign money and General Assembly rules prevent him from doing any fund raising until after the legislative session ends in April. Schmoke, meanwhile, has raised more than $1 million for his 1991 campaign.
"Mine would have to be a grass-roots campaign," Lapides said. "I really would think I could do it for $150,000 to $200,000."
Lapides, 59, also has been a decidedly independent legislator best known in Annapolis for being a stickler on ethics and railing against the evil influence of lobbyists. Consequently, he has built few political alliances and accumulated little real legislative power despite his long tenure.
At the same time, Lapides has little to lose by running for mayor. His district is likely to be eliminated when the state reapportions its legislative districts. That process, which follows each census, is scheduled to take place either in a special legislative session later this year or during the 1992 session.
He faced much the same problem after the 1980 reapportionment but surprised doomsayers retaining his Senate seat in a new district with many unfamiliar voters.
Lapides joins former Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns and Northwestern Senior High School Principal Boyse Mosley as possible candidates to challenge Schmoke.
Mosley and Burns say that they will challenge Schmoke if they can raise the necessary money.