Schmoke's low-key campaign Mayor's flesh-pressing is just part of his daily routine, his aides say.

November 01, 1991|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke stood in the bright autumn sun cutting yet another ribbon, this one outside a new, 49-bed homeless shelter in a converted firehouse in South Baltimore.

The ceremony, held yesterday afternoon, came off just as envisioned by the City Hall aides who planned it. The mayor was feted with kind remarks, applauded by a crowd swollen by top city officials, and hugged by community activists out for the occasion.

It is all routine mayoral stuff -- and typical of what Schmoke is doing to campaign for Tuesday's general election.

Schmoke is up against Samuel A. Culotta, the underfunded Republican nominee who has a gentlemanly manner and a long losing streak in mayoral elections. As a result, Schmoke is doing little more than pulling the levers of incumbency in his effort to win a second four-year term.

"The mayor's calendar is a very active calendar so that puts him in contact with citizens on a regular basis," said Larry S. Gibson, Schmoke's campaign manager.

Translation: an incumbent, Democratic mayoral nominee doesn't need to do much campaigning in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 9 to 1.

In the past few weeks, Schmoke has joined the volunteers at his campaign headquarters to call potential voters and ask for their support.

Schmoke also is spending time campaigning around the city with Democratic City Council nominees -- something he plans to do through the weekend.

"We've been putting a lot of emphasis on our phone banks," Schmoke said. "We are calling people and reminding them of the election. We also have been working shopping centers in each of the council districts."

Schmoke, who is still sitting on a sizable campaign war chest, has no plans to spend any money on radio or television advertising.

"I don't plan to do any media, unless something happens," he said. "If the Republicans increase their media presence, then we will do something."

Schmoke's low-key campaign is likely to ensure that Baltimore continue its tradition of low voter participation in mayoral general elections.

In 1983, 37 percent of the city's registered voters turned out for the matchup between Culotta and then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. In 1987, when Schmoke trounced Culotta despite receiving only lukewarm support in the city's white neighborhoods, voter turnout was 34 percent.

Schmoke and his campaign manager said they are not worried about the prospect of another low-energy Election Day.

"I think you are going to see voter participation pick up next year, with the presidential primary and election," Schmoke said. "A lot of people are hurting as a result of federal policy."

Gibson agreed, adding that voter turnout usually peaks when the electorate is angry, or when there is a hotly contested battle at the top of the ticket.

None of those factors is apparent in this election. In fact, what appears to be the best citywide political battle in town involves Baltimore's two leading Democrats: Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

The Schmoke campaign claims Clarke tried to sabotage it during the primary.

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