Like the owner of a roadside dinner, Elaine Urbanski has resorted to an old advertising gimmick to draw attention to her candidacy in the 3rd District council race.
The gimmick is commonly seen along the nation's highways, especially in rural areas, and it involves signs that are placed at intervals along the roadside. Urbanski uses the gimmick when she greets motorists in the district's major intersections.
A mile away from the intersection, a campaign volunteer holds a sign that says: "Urbanski 1 Mile." The motorist sees two more volunteers holding signs noting the distance to Urbanski before encountering her at the intersection.
Urbanski, 36, and two other Republicans are campaigning for 3rd District council seats in the Nov. 5 General Election. Two GOP candidates are campaigning in the 5th District, three in the 1st and one in the 6th.
Figures show that Democrats outnumber Republicans by 9-1 in Baltimore. That means a GOP candidate must travel a long and arduous road to a council seat. No GOP candidate has completed the journey since 1939 -- the year the last Republican council member was elected.
As Election Day approaches, political observers say the Republicans will be hurt not only by the registration figures but also a lack of unity. None of the GOP council candidates is campaigning with anyone else.
Urbanski, for example, has dismissed the possibility of running with James W. Simms-El and Robert Reuter, the other GOP candidates in the 3rd District.
"I don't have any evidence the other two are doing much campaigning," Urbanski says, adding: "If I joined with them, my campaign would have to carry the load and I'm not willing to do that."
In the 5th District, Republican Lawrence H. Rosen says his GOP colleague, Vaughn Paul Deckret, "hardly talks to me, so there's not much point in running together."
In the 1st, GOP candidates Leo Wayne Dymowski, Joseph DiPasquale and James H. Styles are taking verbal pot shots at each other as they campaign separately.
As for Charles H. Howe, he simply has no one to run with because he is the lone GOP candidate in the 6th.
City GOP chairman David R. Blumberg sums up the situation:
"We have a decent crop of Republicans this year, but our candidates are running in different directions, which doesn't make me too happy."
Out on the stump, the Republicans usually talk about the importance of keeping the middle class from fleeing the city. They say more needs to be done to improve schools, lower taxes and reduce crime.
Urbanski supports the concept of giving more authority to principals and teachers to run their schools. She also emphasizes that she is the only woman in the race, hoping to capture the female vote.
Perhaps the most organized of the Republican City Council candidates, Urbanski campaigns with signs urging voters to "Take Back Your City." Urbanski says she hopes the slogan will prod community action against drug dealers and other criminals.
One of her Democratic opponents takes a different view.
"I take her slogan as a clear racial message to whites which I resent," says one-term incumbent Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham.
He and the other Democratic candidates in the 3rd -- newcomer Martin O'Malley and Martin E. "Mike" Curran, a three-term incumbent -- are campaigning on the same ticket.
The three will focus on the last weeks before the election, says O'Malley, who finished first in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, Reuter, 43, says his campaign got off to a slow start because of an illness in his family. A disabled veteran, Reuter is an articulate advocate for rights for the disabled.
Simms-El could not be reached to comment on his campaign. During the primary, he expressed concern about crime. If elected, he has indicated, he'll sponsor legislation to reduce the number of handguns and automatic weapons and support stronger penalties for using them.
In the 5th District, Rosen is campaigning mainly in the white areas of the district. "I have limited resources so I'm just campaigning in the areas where I have the best chance for votes," says Rosen, 49, a self-employed accountant.
To increase city revenue, Rosen favors imposing property taxes on now exempt non-profit institutions.
Deckret, 42, the other GOP candidate in the 5th, says his campaign got off to a late start because of his work to win passage for Question L, a referendum calling for 18 single-member council districts. The city now is divided into six three-member districts.
Deckret says he supports reducing the size of city government, lowering property taxes and turning control of the classroom back over to teachers.
The Democratic incumbents, Rochelle Rikki Spector, Iris G. Reeves and Vera P. Hall, are conducting a low-key campaign.
"We think we did an effective enough job in getting our message out in the primary," says Reeves.
In the 6th district, Howe is running a quiet campaign. Like Rosen and Deckret in the 5th, Howe is concentrating his efforts in the white neighborhoods of the district.
A black never has held a council seat in the 6th. In September, Melvin L. Stukes became the first black candidate to win the Democratic nomination for one of the district's council seats.
Howe is hoping to capitalize on a white backlash stemming from Stukes' victory.
Howe says he agrees with the incumbents on most issues, but he promises to do a better job of taking care of the district's problems.
Incumbents Joseph J. DiBlasi and Timothy D. Murphy have been campaigning with Stukes.