State Sen. John A. Pica, Jr.'s political organization has endorsed Kevin O'Keeffe over incumbent City Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham in the 3rd District race.
Last year, Cunningham supported Pica who eked out a narrow victory over Martin O'Malley in the Democratic primary. Pica represents northeast Baltimore's 43rd Legislative District. This year, O'Malley is among 13 Democrats running in the 3rd Councilmanic District, which covers much the same area as the 43rd Legislative District.
Pica's organization, the Northeast Democrats, voted last week to endorse 3rd District incumbent Martin E. "Mike" Curran and Maegertha "Mary" Whitaker. Cunningham and Curran are running together for re-election.
The third incumbent, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd, decided to run for city comptroller rather than seek re-election to the council.
On Monday, the organization voted 25 to 9 to support O'Keeffe over Cunningham for third spot on the ticket.
"The club members felt that they wanted to support someone who could build coalitions with the black community in the 3rd District and who was sensitive to the needs of that community," Pica said, adding: "It was felt that Kevin would be better suited to that than Bill."
Pica said Curran was endorsed because he kept a vow and supported Pica last year. O'Malley is married to Curran's niece and the councilman resisted pressure from within his family and some elements of his club to back O'Malley.
O'Keeffe has a good relationship with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and that was another factor that lead to the endorsement, Pica said. O'Keeffe is on a leave from a job as an aide to Schmoke, who has also won the club's endorsement.
Schmoke supported Pica in his re-election battle last year. Schmoke and Pica also worked well together in legislative issues important to the city.
A source in Pica's club said Cunningham fell victim to the fallout from last year's bitterly fought contest between Pica and O'Malley.
Some members say Cunningham didn't make a maximum effort to get Pica re-elected, the source said, adding that Cunningham's political club, the Regular Third District Democratic Club, put unreasonable financial demands on Pica in return for support.
Cunningham said the O'Keeffe endorsement was actually a ploy to undercut O'Malley.
"Pica will do anything to stop O'Malley, including endorsing any Irish candidate whose name starts with O," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said Pica has been "pointing fingers at everyone but himself ever since" he narrowly won last year's election.
Cunningham said he wasn't worried about getting the endorsement of Pica's club, adding that "I'd rather get support from community leaders than from politicians anyway."
Pica's margin of victory was a bare 43 votes in last year's race. vTC He ran well in the black communities in the 43rd -- a crucial factor in his victory. Pica's campaign got a boost from Schmoke and the 43/44 Democratic Club, a predominantly black political organization with strong influence in northeast Baltimore.
Cunningham does not have a good relationship with the 43/44 club and Barbara Green, one of its leaders. Pica was an early supporter of Whitaker, who is a member of the 43/44 club.
Supporters already are calling them the ABC Team. The team members are Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, Paula Johnson Branch and Pamela V. Carter -- the 2nd District Council candidates endorsed by the Eastside Democratic Organization
and the 45th District legislative delegation.
Ambridge, a two-term incumbent, and Branch, a longtime civic worker in East Baltimore, had won the EDO endorsement weeks ago. They also are supported by the New Democratic Club-2.
Meanwhile, Carter, an aide to state Sen. Nathan Irby, D-City, picked up the EDO endorsement this week, after the club's negotiations with incumbent Carl Stokes broke down.
"For one reason or another, he was inclined not to go along with us," said former Councilman Nathaniel J. McFadden, an EDO board member. "We have to move forward."
Stokes' support includes East End Forum, his primary political club, and NDC-2, although his NDC-2 endorsement could be in jeopardy because of his refusal to support the other council candidates on the club's ticket -- Ambridge and Branch.