The city loses

Frank A. DeFilippo

November 07, 1991|By Frank A. DeFilippo

MAYOR Schmoke and his managers had the bread but lacked the wit to put on a good circus during the campaign that concluded Tuesday.

The shadow campaign the mayor and his handlers chose to run was based on the politics of exclusion rather than inclusion, much in the same manner as the Schmoke administration runs City Hall.

Instead of an up-and-at-'em display of unity among Democrats and solidarity among city dwellers, this campaign was a flaccid affair designed to suppress debate and depress the vote. It lacked energy, focus and the force of conviction at a time when the city needed all three.

As every political hobbyist knows, it's axiomatic in campaigns that incumbents avoid controversy and give challengers as little opportunity for exposure as possible.

But really, did Schmoke ever have an opponent other than

Schmoke? Lacking a serious challenge, his campaign could have put its money and muscle into a display of voter interest in the plight of the city. With a sizable turnout and a showing of voter validation, Schmoke could have been perceived as enormously popular at home and a political heavyweight in the rest of the state.

Yet with only 27 percent of the city's 330,000 eligible voters bothering to turn out, Schmoke was elected by only 17 percent of the total electorate.

In the short view, Schmoke's a winner. But in the long view, the city's the loser. Losing money and residents at an alarming rate, and facing the loss of two legislative districts through reapportionment, Baltimore has just sent the rest of Maryland a message that it doesn't give a collective damn. In Annapolis that's a fatal flaw.

Despite four years in office, the abundance of money and the other advantages of incumbency, Schmoke has still not limned his municipal agenda beyond the short-term concern of electoral survival. This no-pain, no-gain campaign may have been the instrument by which he undercut his own political future and the city's lifeline to Annapolis.

Frank A. DeFilippo writes on Maryland politics.

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