Former Baltimore Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns let his gaze sweep the crowd at his political fund-raiser last night at the Martin's West ballroom in Woodlawn and saw that it was good.
"It exceeded our expectations," said Mr. Burns, who promised last year that he would challenge incumbent Kurt L. Schmoke in the September primary if he believed that he could rally the financial support to run a campaign. "We knew it was out there."
Mr. Burns 72, and many of the more than 500 people who attended the fund-raiser -- including current and former officials in the Schmoke administration -- said they are confident that Mr. Burns can muster the money and political support to beat Mayor Schmoke.
Mr. Burns used the occasion to announce that Allen Quille, a businessman and philanthropist noted for his ties to the black and white communities, would be his campaign manager.
The $100-per-ticket fund-raiser drew several business and community leaders, as well as Dr. Richard C. Hunter, who has fallen from favor with Mr. Schmoke since the mayor hand-picked him as school superintendent less than three years ago.
Many at the fund-raiser criticized the Schmoke administration as a distant, frustrating, unresponsive bureaucracy that has not been able to maintain the sense of city pride that had developed after Harborplace opened in 1980.
Many of those same people praised Mr. Burns as competent and compassionate, a man who during his 11 months as Baltimore's mayor in 1987 never forgot that government exists to serve the people.
A spokesman for Mayor Schmoke said he would not comment on the Burns fund-raiser.
Dr. Maxie Collier, the city's health commissioner earlier in the Schmoke administration, said he would support Mr. Burns.
"He is a good and caring person who in his one year in office ran a competent operation," Dr. Collier said.
Dr. Hunter, who has feuded with the mayor and whose contract will not be extended, at Mayor Schmoke's request, also said he would support Mr. Burns.
"I think we have to have a mayor that will allow the superintendent to run the schools," said Dr. Hunter, who is said by some members of the black community to have been humiliated by Mr. Schmoke. "We don't have that in Mr. Schmoke."
Still, Mr. Burns, who Mr. Quille said expects to earn $100,000 from the fund-raiser, faces an uphill battle to recapture the mayor's office. Mr. Schmoke has collected more than $1 million in campaign contributions since he took office in 1987, and has already begun a low-key advertising campaign to tout the accomplishments of his administration.
The fund-raiser also drew several members of the City Council -- including City Council President Mary Pat Clarke -- and two aides to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. All of the council members who were asked said they were using free tickets and had not committed themselves to any mayoral candidate.
Harry J. McGuirk, a member of the powerful Stonewall Democratic Club in South Baltimore and an executive assistant to Mr. Schaefer, said the fund-raiser had attracted the type of people Mr. Burns would need to win an election.
"These are the people who work out in the political vineyards," he said.