Signs of politics are everywhere in the 3rd District

September 09, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert and Mark Bomster contributed to this column.

A sign war is under way in the 3rd District, where 13 candidates are running in the Democratic primary election.

"There's more lawn signs up this year in the district than I can every remember," said Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, adding: "I call it visual clutter."

Curran began erecting signs in the 1950s for the United Third District Democratic Organization, the club headed by his late father, J. Joseph Curran Sr. Since Mike Curran became a councilman in 1977, his younger brother, Bobby, has become the organization's sign man.

The candidates are fighting to get signs posted in prime locations to gain name recognition. And some candidates equate signs with political strength. The more signs -- the stronger the candidate.

The major battles in the sign war are being waged on East 33rd Street, between Memorial Stadium and Hillen Road; on East Coldspring Lane, east of York Road and along East Northern Parkway, near the Alameda. Dozens of signs are posted in yards in these neighborhoods.

Curran, and the other incumbent councilman, Wilbur Cunningham, claim to have signs posted at 400 locations around the district. The ticket of City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and George Brent claims to have signs at just as many locations as the incumbents.

"The political clubs in the district used to have the advantage because they had locations staked out for years," said Clarke. "George and I have to go door-to-door and ask people if we can put up a sign on their lawn. It seems like the incumbents have their signs up over night because they have commitments from people that go back 20 years."

When candidate Martin O'Malley campaigns door-to-door, his pitch includes a request to erect signs.

"I only lost last year's election by 43 votes and by having a sign on this prime location could make the difference," O'Malley told a woman who came to the door of a home in the 1100 block of E. Northern Parkway. O'Malley narrowly lost a bid to upset state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. in last year's Senate race in the 43rd Legislative District.

"I'd like to, but this is my sister's house, and I don't know how she would feel about it," the young woman replied.

"Let us put one up and if your sister objects, she can call our campaign office and we'll take it right down," O'Malley said.

The young woman finally agreed -- and one more neon green and white O'Malley campaign sign went up.

Candidate Kevin O'Keeffe says he has signs in about 150 locations and he isn't worried because some candidates have more signs than he has.

"I've focused more on strategic locations [for signs] rather than quantity," said O'Keeffe, adding: "Besides, signs don't vote, people do."

Uphill fight

Two grass-roots Democratic candidates for City Council in the 5th District have joined forces in their uphill fight against a three-member team of Democratic incumbents.

Michael Johnson and Isaiah C. Fletcher have formed a ticket that plans to field 166 poll-workers on election day and cover all 44 polling places. They hope the ticket will attract support from the three candidates for comptroller.

Johnson, a 36-year-old activist, said the two make a good match. Fletcher is likely to draw older voters, he said, and Johnson the younger, more liberal voters.

Johnson said the two candidates share concerns about education, crime and the problems of children in the district.

"We figured we can include all of that into our campaign," he said.

The two are the most prominent challengers facing three strong incumbents: Vera P. Hall, Iris G. Reeves and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector.

Johnson sees the possibility of an upset, however.

"I think there are going to be surprises in a lot of places," he said. "I think you're going to see a lot of people saying they want to turn out the incumbents."

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