Martin O'Malley, the charismatic political newcomer who came within a razor's edge of unseating a veteran city state senator last year, has decided to enter the City Council race in the 3rd District.
"I feel somewhat guilty going back so soon to my supporters who worked so hard last year and asking them for their support again," O'Malley said last week. "On the other hand, having come so close to winning last year, I would feel worse if I didn't try.
O'Malley's candidacy puts him in a race that includes his uncle by marriage, 14-year veteran Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran.
While acknowledging that two members of the same family running for the council could provide campaign ammunition for other candidates and become an issue with district voters, O'Malley said he wants to be considered on his own merits.
"I married Katie Curran, not Mike Curran, not Joe Curran," he said. "Mike and I are opposite ducks in many respects."
Katie is the daughter of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who is Mike Curran's brother.
"We're not talking about an Irish strain of the Gandhis here," said O'Malley, referring to the Gandhi family, which has dominated politics in India for nearly 50 years.
O'Malley's decision came as a surprise, since only a month ago he said he was leaning against entering the race. But he said a poll he commissioned showed him with better than average name recognition in the new 3rd District, and that helped to change his mind.
O'Malley said he will run alone and pursue the same kind of intensive door-to-door campaign that nearly brought him victory last year.
"That doesn't mean that Mike and I might not end up on some tickets together later in the campaign, but that's the nature of politics," O'Malley said.
"That's interesting," was Mike Curran's response to O'Malley's candidacy.
Curran and Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham are running for re-election. The other incumbent, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd decided to give up his seat to run for city comptroller.
Last year, O'Malley launched what political observers viewed as a long-shot campaign to unseat veteran state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. in the 43rd Legislative District, which covers much of the same northeast Baltimore area as the 3rd Councilmanic District.
Going door to door and waging an aggressive campaign against Pica, O'Malley took advantage of a wide undercurrent of anti-Pica sentiment. He charged that Pica had one of the highest absentee ratings in the Senate and missed many important votes.
Pica vigorously defended his record, pointing out that his important role as chairman of the city Senate delegation caused him to miss some votes, but not votes important to the city.
In that election, Mike Curran and his political club, the United Third District Democratic Organization,endorsed Pica.
After the ballots were counted, O'Malley held a 35-vote lead over Pica. It took the count of absentee ballots to decide the outcome and O'Malley ultimately fell 44 votes shy.
The heart of O'Malley's strength in that election came in the Harford-Belair roads corridor and the Gardenville community. But the new council redistricting plan carved these areas out of the 3rd District.
O'Malley seems undeterred by the changes in the 3rd.
" We'll run on the same theme that we ran on last year, and that is government needs people with new ideas and creative approaches to them," O'Malley said." I think I can be an effective force in City Hall."
An attorney, O'Malley held t op positions in the presidential campaigns of former Colorado Sen. Gary hart and in Barbara A. Mikulski's successful 1986 U.S. Senate campaign.
"City Hall Life: The story of a one-time mayor -- and the disappointment of an entire city. Today's episode is titled, 'Reading Between the Lines.' "
So opens the latest audio blast at Mayor Kurt Schmoke, a short, satirical cassette tape done in the style of a soap opera.
The tape is part of a series produced by the People's Choice Inc., a political action committee backing Clarence H. Du Burns for mayor and chaired by Frank Babusci, a Burns supporter.
The latest episode is set at City Hall, as mayoral aides are desperately seeking a way to advertise Schmoke's education record.
After some disparaging talk about reading skills and about the search for a new school superintendent, one exasperated aide asks, "Come on, guys, isn't there something we can hang our hats on now?"
"We've had that reading slogan painted on 50 new benches," pipes up another voice.
"Not only that, boss, but the new bookmarks arrived, and now the mayor can hand them out again," says another.
"OK, if that's all we've got, run with it," says the first voice. "Maybe if we say it often enough, people will believe the city reads."
Says an announcer: "Kurt Schmoke thinks that empty slogans will solve the problems of education. But he's wrong. You know, it takes real leadership, not bookmarks."