Saying that his administration has helped Baltimore progress despite tough fiscal times, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced his candidacy for re-election yesterday at a railroad museum fund-raiser, urging Baltimoreans to "stay on board."
"Despite what critics say, in tough times we have made progress," Mr. Schmoke told a cheering crowd at the B&O Railroad Museum on West Pratt Street during the three-minute speech in which he announced his candidacy.
About 3,000 people attended the $20-a-ticket affair, which featured a "Stay on Board with Schmoke" campaign motif and which campaign officials said was priced to allow as many to attend as possible.
The campaign theme is a variation of an earlier "Get on Board with Schmoke" theme that was the basis of a midterm fund-raising campaign in 1989.
Mr. Schmoke, who wore a blue business suit and paisley tie, stood in a receiving line for almost two hours to shake hands with supporters.
"Schmoke's politics are awesome," said S. Kent Dunn, an architect and builder from Fells Point. "He's got guts in a time and age when most politicians don't."
"I'm excited about the potential for the city to move forward in the next four years," said Mac Baker, a personnel manager for the city housing department and one of scores of city workers present.
But others in attendance said that while they intend to support the mayor, they have been disappointed with his first term in office.
"I'd like to see more done for minority contractors," said Richard Lee, an attorney who works with minority-owned businesses.
He said that his schoolteacher wife also has been disappointed by the mayor and that she boycotted the fund-raiser to show her dissatisfaction. "But I think on the whole he's done a good job. I certainly prefer him to any other candidate who has announced."
The Schmoke fund-raiser also drew protesters, who rallied outside the museum's historic roundhouse building to call attention to what they say have been shortcomings of the mayor.
The Maryland Minority Contractors Association, which has increasingly accused the Schmoke administration of doing little to promote the development of minority businesses, threw up a noisy picket line.
And Republican mayoral hopeful Joseph A. Scalia II also was outside the museum, accusing Mr. Schmoke of being rudderless in addressing problems of crime, drugs and what he views as an inadequate school system.
Ronald M. Shapiro, the mayor's campaign treasurer, formally introduced Mr. Schmoke to the throng and -- in a speech that lasted twice as long as the candidate's -- pointed to what he said was an impressive record of accomplishments that the mayor intends to build upon in a second term.
They included a list of brick-and-mortar projects reminiscent of re-election campaigns of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer -- including a development fund that has made $19 million in loans to renovate housing in the city, and the filling of 30,000 potholes.
Mr. Shapiro also claimed a $45 million increase in city funding for the school system during Mr. Schmoke's 3 1/2 years in office, the development of several literacy programs and, the mayor's critics notwithstanding, an increase in city contracts to minority firms.
One strategy of Schmoke campaign officials seems to be to try to collect so much in campaign donations that it becomes hard for former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns and other potential opponents to do fund raising of their own.
That strategy was apparently successful during his first mayoral campaign in 1987, when Mr. Schmoke hit up contributors from as far away as New York City and amassed more than $1 million.
In contrast, Mr. Burns raised far less -- in mid-August he was down to $15,000 -- and the desperate shortage of funds hampered his ability to air campaign advertising during the critical weeks before the Democratic primary.
Although Schmoke campaign officials have refused to release detailed information on contributions gathered so far -- Maryland campaign laws do not require candidates to disclose their campaign finances until August -- they have said that Mr. Schmoke has raised more than $1 million since the last campaign and has more than $500,000 in hand.
Mr. Burns, who acknowledges having raised far less than that so far, is having his own $500-a-plate breakfast fund-raiser tomorrow.
Although Mr. Schmoke held back on making his candidacy official until yesterday, he has markedly increased his political appearances in recent weeks, pumping hands at the fund-raisers of several candidates running for City Council.
Mr. Schmoke, 41, planned to file his candidacy with the Board of Elections Supervisors today.
Mr. Schmoke said he will be far more aggressive in this campaign than he was in 1987, when he shied away from direct attacks on Mr. Burns, who became mayor when Mr. Schaefer was elected as governor.
Mr. Burns finished strongly and narrowly lost to Mr. Schmoke in the primary after being outspent by a wide margin.
"I'm going to try to be positive all through the campaign; but if I get a shot at me, I'm going to hit back," Mr. Schmoke said last night.