John B. Ascher's campaign for mayor got off to a rocky start yesterday.
Mr. Ascher, a follower of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, arrived to make his official announcement in City Hall Plaza just as a light rain began to fall.
Moments later, a City Hall guard strode across the plaza to inquire -- with a scowl -- just what he and his half-dozen supporters were doing.
And although Mr. Asher eagerly offered campaign literature to anyone who looked his way as they hurried past, few people bothered to take it.
One man who did take his campaign handout read a few lines before crumpling it into a ball.
"I'm going with 'Du' Burns," the passer-by said, referring to former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns, who also plans to run for mayor this year.
Nonetheless, Mr. Ascher said he was determined to challenge Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, vowing to make an issue of the mayor's controversial call for drug decriminalization and his suggestion that society consider the use of mind-altering drugs to control criminal urges in rapists and addicts.
"I think voters will welcome someone who is willing to stand up and tell the truth about Mr. Schmoke," Mr. Ascher said.
After handing out literature for 45 minutes, Mr. Ascher walked to the Charles L. Benton Municipal Building and paid his $150 registration fee, making him an official candidate for mayor.
Former Baltimore State's Attorney William A. Swisher also has filed for mayor.
A 1969 Friends School graduate, Mr. Ascher ran for comptroller under the LaRouche banner in 1983. In a five-way race for the 3rd Congressional District seat in 1986, he finished a distant second to Benjamin L. Cardin. During the congressional campaign, Mr. Ascher called for closer ties to Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega's Panama to help stem the flow of drugs into the United States.
Followers of Mr. LaRouche, who in 1989 was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for fraud and tax evasion conspiracy, have espoused a number of conspiracy theories over the years, accusing various Washington officials of having hidden links to Moscow.
LaRouche followers also have called for the reindustrialization of Baltimore and the nation.