There's a Republican candidate conducting an aggressive campaign for City Council in Baltimore's 3rd District. But if you listen to her speak or read her campaign literature, you would never know it.
As she goes door-to-door throughout Northeast Baltimore, Elaine Urbanski eagerly offers her ideas for improving education by enlisting the aid of local corporations. She stands firm against the tide of politicians who are calling for increased taxes, even though Baltimore is facing a severe cut in services because of a $26million loss in state aid.
She even offers cute stories about her three children, her marriage to a former dance instructor and her first job selling hot dogs at Memorial Stadium. But the one thing that Mrs. Urbanski does not mention is her party affiliation. Nor does she include it in her campaign literature.
Unlike other Republican candidates running for office in Baltimore, Mrs. Urbanski is not striving to set herself apart from the Democratic leadership of Baltimore -- a city in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-to-1. She emphasizes the similarities between her beliefs and those of most of the city's residents. And instead of bashing the current Democratic officeholders, she says that their policies "could be enhanced by LTC having at least one Republican on the City Council."
"I want people to vote for me because of what I stand for, not because of what party I belong to," says Mrs. Urbanski, a public relationsmanager at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. "I'm not a die-hard Republican. I don't even want the Republicans to vote for me just because I'm Republican."
Mrs. Urbanski is one of nine Republicans running for the council -- there are two other candidates in the 3rd and other GOP contenders in the 1st, 5th and 6th districts -- but is considered to be the only one with a chance of winning.
The last time a Republican was elected to Baltimore's City Council was in 1939.
Mrs. Urbanski remains undaunted. She has raised about $5,000 for her campaign and has gotten the help of 50 volunteers who mail fliers, walk door-to-door or spend morning rush-hour waving at drivers.
"Primarily I like her enthusiasm," said Hershel Brown, a resident of the North Harford Road area who heard Mrs. Urbanski at a recent candidates' forum. "I just feel a person who approaches any position with enthusiasm is something that we need to see more of."
But her secret weapon in wooing voters may be her 2-year-old son, Andrew. As Mrs. Urbanski gets ready to go out on the campaign trail, she scoops up her fliers in one hand and Andrew in the other.
"We're going politicking," beams the golden-haired youngster.
As they go door-to-door, Andrew hops through front yards, innocently picking flowers from gardens and singing "Skip, skip, skip to my Lou."
Children, says Mrs. Urbanski, would be her No. 1 priority if she were elected. Currently, she coordinates employee volunteer activities at BG&E. And she says her most rewarding work involves partnerships forged between the utility company and three local schools to boost literacy and vocational education.
The slogan of Mrs. Urbanski's campaign is "Take Back Your City" and to do that, she tells voters that she would use the BG&E model to establish more private-public partnerships to provide money and volunteers to schools.
But while many may like her ideas, they are reluctant to pull a Republican lever in the voting booth -- saying that the policies of the last two Republican presidents have led to much of the demise of American cities.
"The last time I voted for a Republican was Spiro Agnew," said Ed Sommerfeldt, a resident of Northwood. "The Republican self-help concepts are interesting, but I'm not a big fan of that approach.
"It's easy to tell someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps," he added. "But what happens if they don't have any bootstraps?"
To counter her expressed commitment to improving city schools, 3rd District incumbent Wilbur "Bill" Cunningham points out that Mrs. Urbanski sends her children to private school.
"Talking about improving schools is one thing," he says. "But it means a whole lot more when you have a real investment in the system."
However, Mr. Cunningham, running as part of a Democratic team that includes incumbent Martin E. "Mike" Curran and newcomer Martin O'Malley, admits that Mrs. Urbanski is a serious opponent. "She's out there campaigning and she seems to be well-funded," he said.