Mary Pat Clarke easily won renomination in the Democratic primary for City Council president last night, but two veteran 1st District councilmen were ousted as independent candidates swept to victory in East Baltimore.
A third incumbent, 6th District Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, was defeated by challenger Melvin L. Stukes, giving the Southwest Baltimore district a black council representative for the first time.
Mrs. Clarke faced little opposition from community activist Daki Napata and beat him by a margin of 9-to-1. She will face Anthony D. Cobb, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, in the Nov. 5 general election.
Voters in East Baltimore's sprawling 1st District voted out six-term Councilman Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro and five-term incumbent John A. Schaefer -- both products of a powerful political machine -- in favor of newcomers Perry Sfikas and John Cain. Incumbent Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. was easily re-elected.
"God answered my prayers," said a flabbergasted Mr. D'Adamo. "I got elected, and it looks like I got two new colleagues. This proves that the voters are fed up with the old-time politicians, and they are fed up with machine politics."
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.
Races for seats in two districts -- the 2nd and the 3rd -- went down to the wire.
In the center-city 2nd District, incumbents Anthony J. Ambridge and Carl Stokes won re-election, but the contest for the third slot was very close at the end, with Paula Johnson Branch edging out homeless advocate Beatrice Gaddy by less than 300 votes. There are no Republican candidates in the 2nd.
In Northeast Baltimore's 3rd District, newcomer Martin O'Malley, who narrowly lost a campaign for the state Senate last year, captured the the Democratic slot that was vacated by Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III. Meanwhile, incumbent Martin E. "Mike" Curran also won renomination. But the other incumbent, Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham ended up less than 200 votes ahead of challenger George E. Brent -- making a bid to become the district's first black councilman -- with all the votes counted.
The winners of the 3rd District Democratic primary will face Republicans Robert Reuter, James W. Sims-El and Elaine Urbanski in the general election.
Mr. Brent's fight for a seat on the council was driven by the 3rd District's new majority black population -- a majority created last spring when the City Council passed a new redistricting plan that the created four other majority black districts
and left only the 1st District with a white majority.
That plan set the stage for this summer's racially charged campaigns, but it failed to produce any change in the complexion of the council.
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, the candidates vowed to develop strategies to improve education, combat AIDS and stimulate the city's economy.
"I voted for some change," said Marge Owen, a resident of Morrell Park who voted for Mr. Stukes.
The most visible defeat to pothole politics was in the 1st District, which stretches from Belair-Edison in Northeast Baltimore to Locust Point in South Baltimore. There, incumbents who have been in office for two decades or more lost their seats to 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."
But in other hot contests, the candidates' skin color seemed as important as the issues they discussed.
BIn Southwest Baltimore's 6th District, an all-black "Unity Ticket" sought to dislodge the organization-backed ticket of incumbents Joseph J. DiBlasi, Timothy D. Murphy and Mr. Reisinger -- all of whom are white. Mr. DiBlasi and Mr. Murphy won easy victories, but Mr. Reisinger lost a seemingly safe lead in the late returns to Mr. Stukes, who defeated him by 700 votes.
The winners in the 6th District will face one Republican, Charles H. Howe, in the general election.
The incumbents in West Baltimore's 4th District -- Sheila Dixon, Lawrence Bell and Agnes B. Welch -- had little opposition in their bids for re-election and face no GOP opposition in the general election.
But their campaign did spark some rivalry among themselves. "It seemed we were running against each other because they were so concerned with who was going to come in first," Mrs. Dixon said of her colleagues. "In the next four years, I will be seeking qualified individuals who want to run as a team next time because I learned that I could get more accomplished that way."
A few miles north, in the 5th District, incumbents Vera P. Hall, Rochelle "Rikki" Spector and Iris G. Reeves were expected to easily win over challengers Michael E. Johnson of Pimlico and and Isaiah Fletcher Sr. of Upper Park Heights. Two Republicans, Vaughn Paul Deckret and Lawrence H. Rosen, will be on the ballot in the general election.