Let's Have a Real City Election

March 16, 1991

Whatever happened to vigor and excitement in Baltimore politics? Here we are in mid-March in an election year and city politics is a big yawn.

Take the mayoral race, for example. Although some hopefuls are bragging about running -- and one challenger has plunked down the $150 filing fee -- Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke so far is without a credible opponent in his bid for a second term. At this rate, Mr. Schmoke might begin believing in his invincibility -- and infallibility -- despite a number of acute issues that should be fully discussed before the Nov. 5 general election.

General apathy also prevails in the 18 City Council races, even though every seat should be considered vacant because of redistricting.

The clock is ticking. Only a little more than three months remain until the July 1 filing deadline. After that, politicians will have just over two months to campaign before the Sept. 12 primary. This calendar leaves precious little time for fund-raising -- which is harder than usual in today's economic conditions -- and grass-roots organizing.

The political situation should clear up quickly later this month.

Clarence H. "Du" Burns, the former mayor who narrowly lost to Mr. Schmoke in 1987 and is now talking comeback, will face his moment of truth March 26. A $100-a-ticket fund raiser scheduled for that date will determine whether he has any political future or only tens of thousands of dollars of remaining debts from his last campaign.

Fund-raising should also quickly show whether former city State's Attorney William A. Swisher is a viable candidate and whether state Sen. Julian L. Lapides and Boyse F. Mosley, principal of Northwestern High School, are just bluffing. If they are serious, they'd better start hustling: Mayor Schmoke has so far raised more than $1 million.

The red-letter day for City Council races comes at the end of the month. March 28 is the deadline for redistricting. After that, candidates should quickly emerge for the council seats as well as for the city comptroller's office, which is being vacated after 28 years by Hyman A. Pressman, the seven-term incumbent.

Let's have a real election.

After last year's election upsets in the surrounding counties, we think there is enough time for fresh faces to challenge the incumbents at all levels of city government.

We urge the Republican Party, in particular, to make sure that quality candidates run for offices and offer voters a choice this year. Granted, no Republican has been elected in Baltimore City since Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin in 1963. But the need for new leadership and new ideas is so great that the GOP should make a special effort to come up with top-flight candidates.

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