After three political campaigns and almost nine years in public office, Mayor Kurt Schmoke finally got an official invitation to appear before the Hampden Democratic Club.
And during last night's candidates' forum at the club, which has never supported him politically, the mayor quickly but diplomatically pointed out the long omission to his audience.
Schmoke followed a robust introductory applause by saying, "I appreciate very, very much the response. I've had the unfortunate circumstance in other races of not getting your endorsement, but this year I look forward to support from the club."
The mayor said he has never been to the club as a candidate although earlier this year during a walk through in the Hampden community he stopped in the club in the heart of Hampden.
The prominent political club serves the Hampden, Woodbury and Medfield communities in north central Baltimore.
John E. McHale, who has been president of the club for two years, said all candidates for city office and those running for City Council in the 4th District would be sent letters of invitation this year.
McHale acknowledged that Schmoke has never before received a formal invitation to appear before the club, but added, "all of our candidates' night forums in past years have been open to all candidates and to the public."
Schmoke quickly ran through his accomplishments as mayor and promised to "keep the city moving forward despite the financial difficulties we face."
His two principal challengers, former city State's Attorney William Swisher and former Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns, both past political adversaries of his, also spoke to the club and took potshots at Schmoke's record as mayor.
Burns, who represented Hampden in the council when parts of it were in the 2nd District, got a standing ovation when he was introduced.
Schmoke gained public office in 1982 when he beat the incumbent Swisher for state's attorney by over 40,000 votes. Swisher defeated Schmoke in the Hampden precincts by a 2 1/2 -1 margin.
Schmoke ran against Burns in the closely contested 1987 mayoral race. Mayor Burns lost to Schmoke by less than 5,500 votes. Hampden supported Burns over Schmoke by a 2-1 margin.
In the 1982 campaign, the Hampden Democratic Club endorsed Swisher. In 1987, it backed Burns.
As he left the club and headed for his car, the mayor was asked to assess the response he received from the club.
"I guess we'll have to wait until Sept. 12," he said, grinning, referring to the primary election date.