Mayor Kurt Schmoke's primary victory yesterday was, in many respects, as lackluster as the campaign that preceded it. The low voter turnout -- barely more than a third of the city's registered voters -- can only be read as a sign of a pervasive apathy in Baltimore.
In every district in the city, residents articulated concern over a broad range of issues during the months preceding the election -- from property taxes to education to housing. That only 107,193 people cast ballots -- 58 percent of them for the mayor -- seems to suggest most residents either believe the problems are insurmountable or, perhaps worse, that it doesn't really make much difference who runs the city.
Part of the blame belongs to Schmoke himself. "I'm not Arsenio Hall," the mayor quipped in his victory statement last night by way of explaining the lack of excitement of the primary campaign. Assuredly, the mayor is correct that a political campaign is not a comic opera staged for the entertainment of the people. But the fact is, the mayor ran something of a stealth campaign by refusing to debate his Democratic opponents. Former Mayor Clarence Du Burns took one or two spirited jabs at Schmoke's claims of his accomplishments during his first term, but it was, in the end, like shadow boxing. No real issues ever crystallized. That, coupled with the mayor's massive $1 million war chest and the phenomenon known as "the incumbent advantage," is what ultimately won so decisively for Schmoke.