Schmoke fails to regain political club's backing

August 16, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

The New Democratic Club-2, home political club of Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, has voted to sit on its hands rather than endorse Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's bid for re-election.

"I think it's a major indicator that the campaign is not over, that Kurt is not a shoo-in," said William Henry, an NDC-2 member who said he had been a strong Schmoke supporter in the 1987 election but now favors former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns.

The club's endorsement -- or lack of it -- is significant beyond the relatively small number of people who voted at the NDC-2 meeting Tuesday night. Members of the center city political club are largely middle class, politically involved, and likely not only to vote on Election Day but to work for their candidate.

In 1987, the club's unanimous endorsement of Mr. Schmoke was considered important in building momentum for his narrow victory over Mr. Burns. But Tuesday night, members of NDC-2 split nearly evenly on whether to back Mr. Schmoke or Mr. Burns. The club eventually voted not to endorse anyone because no candidate achieved a clear majority.

Mrs. Clarke said the vote indicates disillusionment among some NDC-2 members, who believe the mayor has neither articulated a coherent vision for the city nor insisted that his administration get the job done.

"That sense of agenda, commitment to a course of action is not here this time, and I think that is what won it for Mr. Schmoke the last time," Mrs. Clarke said.

Mrs. Clarke, whose relations with the mayor have deteriorated since they were both elected in 1987, denied having anything to do with the results of the vote. She said she was focusing on her own re-election.

Although Schmoke campaign officials sought to downplay the significance of the NDC-2 vote, they were clearly stung by the outcome. Larry S. Gibson, Mr. Schmoke's campaign manager, accused Ms. Clarke of orchestrating the club's decision as part of an unrelated political dispute with the mayor.

He said Mr. Schmoke has piled up far more endorsements this summer than either Mr. Burns or the third major candidate in the race, former State's Attorney William A. Swisher.

But Mr. Burns called the club's decision not to endorse anyone a moral victory for him. He said it was likely club members would now consider more strongly voting for him.

Of 44 votes cast by rank-and-file members in the preliminary balloting, Mr. Schmoke got 13, Mr. Burns got 11, and 19 ballots were cast indicating no endorsement. Mr. Swisher got one vote.

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