The Final Days

September 10, 1991

With only two days to go until Thursday's primary election in Baltimore City, reality is beginning to sink in. Barring unforeseen upsets, City Council incumbents are likely to be re-elected in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Districts. In contrast, tight contests have developed over Democratic nominations in the First, Second and Third districts.

Understandably, the mayoral race has captured most of the attention. It has been an odd spectacle. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's decision to wage a low-profile campaign has made it difficult for the two other major Democrats, Clarence H. "Du" Burns and William Swisher, to raise issues or create enthusiasm. Yet the exercise has served a purpose. Unlike two months ago, there is now a growing realization among Schmoke aides that major changes are needed in the administration -- if their candidate wins renomination. The city's Department of Housing and Community Development, in particular, requires an overhaul. Why this could not be recognized before the campaign is puzzling.

On the Republican side, a lively race for mayor is being fought among Samuel A. Culotta, Bruce K. Price and Joseph A. Scalia. The GOP in Baltimore City is so minuscule that fewer than 6,000 people are expected to vote in the primary. Any one of the three could win. The candidates vary by age and experience. Mr. Culotta is a veteran warrior; Mr. Price is making his first try at an elective office as a Republican, and Mr. Scalia recently graduated from law school. Their contest has done much to rejuvenate the city GOP.

The tightest citywide contest is likely to be the three-way Democratic race to succeed Hyman A. Pressman, who is retiring after 28 years as city comptroller. It is a veritable toss-up. This is an important office. The city comptroller is a member of the Board of Estimates, the executive committee that runs the city. The comptroller's fiscal responsibility includes auditing municipal agencies.

The comptroller's race has produced two big surprises. Mary W. Conaway, the register of wills, has proved a far more viable candidate than many thought just a few months ago. In contrast, Jacqueline McLean, a city councilwoman and travel agency owner, has surprised observers with the weakness of her campaign. The heavy media blitz that characterized her previous election efforts never materialized.

Councilman Joseph T. Landers, The Sun's candidate for city comptroller, has been knocking on thousands of doors. We think his serious and systematic approach is needed in overhauling the comptroller's office and city government.

Thursday's primary election promises to change much of the political landscape in Baltimore City. Even if the mayor and the City Council president win renomination, the city comptroller's office and several City Council seats will have new occupants. We urge every registered Democrat and Republican to take direct control of their city by voting.


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