Former city State's Attorney William A. Swisher, whose racially tinged campaign style helped propel Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke into political prominence, today filed as a candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary.
Swisher, 56, said he is challenging Schmoke in the September primary because the city needs "a change of direction."
"I think the present mayor is a pretty nice fellow, but I really don't think he has done the job," Swisher said.
Swisher said that a host of problems have gotten worse since Schmoke took office in 1987.
"Education, crime, fire department, taxes, not being able to pay the bills. I can't say he's responsible for everything. But I think there should be a change of direction, more of a hands-on type of daily leadership," Swisher said.
Swisher last ran for political office in 1987, when he briefly was a candidate for City Council president.
"I did that just to rattle the trees," Swisher said. "I withdrew in just three days. That wasn't even a campaign."
In 1983, Swisher finished a distant third in another campaign for the council presidency. In 1982, Schmoke, then a little-known lawyer, rode a large black voter surge to a wide victory over incumbent Swisher in a racially tinged campaign for city state's attorney.
"Every election is a new ball game," Swisher said. He added that any racial messages read into his past campaigns were "misconceptions, media hype."
Schmoke, who already has raised more than $1 million for his re-election effort, could not be reached for comment.
Swisher said he has no idea how much money he will raise for the campaign. "Money is important, but sometimes you can get by without it," he said.
At present, Schmoke's only other challenger is Sheila Hopkins, a political unknown. However, former Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns, state Sen. Julian L. Lapides and Northwestern High School Principal Boyse F. Mosley also have expressed interest in the office.