Schmoke's re-election campaign strives for maximum exposure

ROGER SIMON HC

June 30, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

Kurt Schmoke: The Video has just been released. Kurt Schmoke: The Paperback will hit the streets soon.

But before I preview them for you, I'll give you this advice: Get them while you can. Because they may be the longest look you will get at Kurt Schmoke: The Candidate in this year's mayoral contest.

Yes, Schmoke will plunge deeper into a back-breaking schedule of personal appearances. But most voters don't go to such things.

And yes, he will have TV and radio commercials. But they will be 30 and 60 seconds long.

The one source, however, that many people tune into in order to see the candidates -- televised debates -- will probably not take place this year. And that's because Schmoke says he has no plans to debate his opponents.

He will be appearing in forums, where the candidates speak separately. But those are serious, issue-oriented things that rarely, if ever, are televised.

Debates are what people watch for the same reason they watch the Indy 500: To see who crashes and burns.

In his last race, Schmoke debated incumbent Mayor "Du" Burns. But because expectations were so high for Schmoke and so low for Burns, Burns' entirely adequate performance was a big boost to the Burns' campaign.

This time, Schmoke apparently sees no reason to boost his opponents and no reason to provide free publicity for their underfinanced campaigns. "I don't know whether we're going to be able to debate," Schmoke told me Friday. "I am told there are nine candidates in the race and I am not sure how useful a nine-candidate debate would be. It was not useful to the Democrats [in the 1988 presidential primaries]."

OK, so how about a three-man, Schmoke-Burns-Bill Swisher debate? I asked.

"No," the mayor said. "We're not going to do that. We have no plans to. It is unlikely."

So if you want to see Schmoke on TV at any length longer than a commercial or a nightly news sound-bite, you're going to have to plug him into your VCR yourself.

What can be said about Schmoke's new 11 1/2 -minute videotape? Well, Schmoke may have put it best himself. "I think my tape's better than Du's," he said.

A few weeks ago, a campaign organization friendly to "Du" Burns' mayoral candidacy starting handing out audio tapes spoofing and criticizing Schmoke. In the past, Schmoke would not have commented on such a thing. But that was the last campaign. In the current campaign, Schmoke is breathing fire.

Well, at least he's smoldering a little.

"In the last campaign, I simply deflected any shots taken at me and did not respond," he said. "This time I will respond."

Such as?

"When Swisher [the former state's attorney] talks about me having 14 bodyguards, well, last time I would have ignored it," Schmoke said. "This time, I clarify and I correct and I also remind people that he knows better and he knows what the true facts are and what he is doing reflects that he is trying to mislead people."

OK, enough raw meat for one interview. Now to the video:

There is music, but it is not something you can either dance to or listen to very long without gnashing your teeth. It is upbeat, generic, synthesizer stuff.

The pictures are better. They are of Schmoke meeting and greeting people. Schmoke, no tie, collar unbuttoned, talking over a coffee mug in his kitchen, a bowl of fruit behind him. The city skyline, markets and houses. People at work. Families at play. Kids at school. The mayor's wife (also identified as his "best friend") and the mayor's daughter, though not the mayor's son.

Needless to say, the images are carefully multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-aged. And there are endorsements. Boy, are there endorsements.

Former Mayor Tommy D'Alesandro III appears (you can almost )) hear the producer screaming: "Get me a popular white politician who's never been indicted!") and says:

"Kurt Schmoke is one of the finest political personalities I've ever met in my life. He's honest, a man of intellect, integrity and industry. I give him very high marks as a person and as mayor."

There are also magazine covers praising Schmoke and Baltimore (which also make up a soon-to-be-released Schmoke campaign ad) including People saying of Schmoke: "Tough and creative, he's in the forefront of a new generation of leaders whose strength is substance, not showmanship."

The narration of the tape is standard and substandard stuff: "A city is more than bricks and mortar." "Kurt Schmoke is dedicated to making Baltimore a wonderful place to live." "He proves his commitment by facing the challenges of the '90s."

But mostly there are facts (Schmoke's opponents would call them claims) about what Schmoke has done for the city.

The tape is at its best when Schmoke is simply sitting behind that coffee and in front of that fruit and talking. "Hopefully," he concludes, "people will be able to say -- and I think they will be able to say -- that indeed the city is better because Kurt Schmoke was mayor."

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