Election harbingers

November 06, 1991

Even though only a quarter of the eligible voters of Baltimore city chose to go to the polls yesterday, there is no reason to believe the result would have been any different had there been a massive turnout. As expected, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke won a decisive vote of confidence for a second term -- a term which almost certainly will be far more difficult than his first as the city increasingly must rely on its own meager resources in a time when the well of federal revenue support has gone dry and the well of state revenue support is getting dangerously low.

As light as the turnout was, the election could have provided voters with a glimpse of the political future in Baltimore. Clearly Mary Pat Clarke, the City Council president, and Jacqueline McLean, the newly elected city comptroller, each find themselves in a strong position to move up to the mayorality once that office is vacated by Schmoke. Alas, the glimpse of a potential Clark-McLean race offered by yesterday's voting was no more revealing than watching someone inside a voting machine with the curtain closed. Clarke and McLean finished in a virtual dead heat, each receiving a resounding 83 percent of the vote cast. Obviously the same people who voted for one voted for the other, so there was no hint as to how those people would have voted had they been choosing between the two. But even if the two women were drawing support from the same voters in this particular election, their style and personality is dramatically different; the test of which sells better on the free market of the campaign must wait for at least four years, maybe eight.

Given the fact that virtually all the established politicians opposed Question L, it was hardly surprising that the voters turned aside the opportunity to dramatically restructure the mechanism of city government by creating 18 single-member districts to supplant the present six three-member districts. But the fact that 44 percent of the voters expressed a desire for that change must be taken as reflecting a significant amount of dissatisfaction. This message, we trust, will resonate as the city undertakes an expected charter revision next year.

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