Mary Pat Clarke easily won renomination in the Democratic primary for City Council president last night, but two veteran East Baltimore City Council members appeared vulnerable as independent candidates picked up strong support.
Mrs. Clarke, who faced little opposition from community activist Daki Napata and beat him by 9-to-1. She will face Anthony D. Cobb, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, in the Nov. 5 general election.
In East Baltimore's 1st District, both six-term Councilman Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro and five-term incumbent John A. Schaefer were lagging behind the leaders with nearly half the votes counted. Both products of east side organization politics, they were trailing incumbent Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., and newcomers Perry Sfikas and John Cain.
In Northeast Baltimore's Third District, newcomer Martin O'Malley, who narrowly lost a campaign for the state senate last year, appeared on his way to capturing the council seat being vacated by Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III. Meanwhile, two incumbents, Wilbur E. Bill Cunningham and Martin E. Mike Curran were battling it out with newcomer George E. Brent, who would be the 3rd District's first black councilman if he wins election.
Although the turnout was low, many of the voters who did go to the polls said that they were angry at the new redistricting plan passed by the Council last spring that created five majority black districts and set the stage for this summer's racially charged campaigns.
The campaign also saw the emergence of a crop of aggressive independent candidates who promised voters that they would do more than fix potholes and clean streets. Despite the limited power given to the City Council by charter, these candidates promised to develop strategies to improve education, combat AIDS and stimulate the city's economy.
"I'm voted for some change," said Marge Owen, a resident of Morrell Park who voted enthusiastically for 6th District challenger Melvin Stukes. "The people here have turned into old-fashioned politicians -- they're embedded here so they're inactive.
"I mean sure you can get your lawn mowed, but there are broader issues that need to be addressed."
The most visible test to pothole politics is in the sprawling 1st District, which stretches from Belair-Edison in Northeast Baltimore to Locust Point in South Baltimore. There incumbents were facing stiff challenges from Mr. Sfikas, a 35-year-old aide to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, and Mr. Cain, editor of the East Baltimore Guide newspaper.
"We need new blood," said Jeanne Bell, a lifelong resident of Locust Point who voted for Mr. D'Adamo, Mr. Cain and Mr. Sfikas. "Not necessarily young blood, but new blood to show John Schaefer that he can't treat us just any old way."
The winners in the 1st will face a full slate of Republicans -- Joseph DiPasquale, Leo Wayne Dymowski and James H. Styles Jr. -- in the general election.
Another close race was shaping up in the center-city 2nd District, incumbents Anthony J. Ambridge and Carl Stokes battled to hold on to their seats. A host of challengers -- among them Peter Beilenson, Paula Johnson Branch, Michael Jankowski, Pamela Carter and Beatrice Gaddy -- fought it out to either knock off one of the incumbents or win the district's third seat, vacated when Jacqueline F. McLean decided to run for city comptroller.
TC Victory in the primary means election, as there are no Republican candidates in the 2nd.
But in other hot contests, the candidates' skin color seemed as important as the issues they discussed.
In Southwest Baltimore's 6th District, an all-black "Unity Ticket" was formed to take on the Stonewall Democratic team of incumbents Joseph J. DiBlasi, Edward L. Reisinger and Timothy D. Murphy -- all of whom are white.
The Unity team -- Melvin Stukes, a civic activist from Cherry Hill; Arlene Fisher, a social worker from Harlem Park, and Rodney Orange, a steel worker from Franklin Square -- stressed the message that African-American residents have long been overlooked by the incumbents and their political clubs.
"I voted for these three for the simple reason that we've never had a black on the council in the 6th District," said one voter pointing to a mock-Unity ballot outside a Harlem Park polling place. "It's time for us to have a seat."
The winners will face one Republican, Charles H. Howe, in the general.
In Northeast Baltimore's 3rd District, several strong black candidates took aim at the seat vacated by Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, who is running for comptroller. But, even the front-runners -- Maegertha "Mary" Whitaker, whose campaign was organized by the powerful 43/44 Democratic Club, and George Brent, who was assisted by Council President Clarke -- may have been hurt by the prospect of a split in the district's black vote. And two independent white challengers, Martin O'Malley and Kevin O'Keeffe, might win nominations either along with or at the expense of incumbents Martin E. "Mike" Curran and Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham.