Mayor might first consider trying to run his city better

MICHAEL OLESKER

March 02, 1993|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Hearts are fluttering. The mayor of Baltimore, Kurt L. Schmoke, says he's considering running for governor of Maryland. Everyone can't wait to ask: On what grounds?

In fact, I have now asked five Schmoke intimates about the mayor's prospective platform, including one I bumped into at the food store on Sunday, who declared quite forthrightly, and this is an exact quote:

"Huh?"

This was followed by four more interviews of Schmoke insiders yesterday, asking the same question about a campaign platform, with the following studied and insightful responses:

"Huh?"

"Huh?"

"Huh?"

And:

"Kurt who?"

"A platform," I said to the Schmoke insider at the food store. "You know, what would he point to as his major accomplishments in office?"

"What can any of the others say?" replied this man, not a little bit pugnaciously.

He means Melvin "Mickey" Steinberg, Joe Curran and Parris Glendening, all considering their own runs for governor. His point is well taken.

Steinberg could run as: The Man Who Wasn't William Donald Schaefer.

Curran could run as: Just as Conscientious as Kurt Schmoke, and Every Bit As Boring.

Glendening could run as: anything he wants, and it still wouldn't matter to Baltimoreans, who know Prince George's County only by rumor.

But Schmoke clearly thinks he has a chance, for reasons we shall get to momentarily. What he needs, and what we propose to advance, is a catch phrase to sum up the major accomplishments of his mayoralty. Thus:

The Top Ten Kurt L. Schmoke Gubernatorial Campaign Slogans:

10. He's Not Just A Man, He's A Resume.

9. Lexington Terrace Wasn't His Fault, If You Look At It Technically.

8. Where There's Schmoke, There's Ire.

7. It Only Took Him Three Years to Get Rid of Richard Hunter.

6. It Only Took Five to Get Rid of Robert Hearn.

5. If You Thought Harry Hughes Was Mr. Charisma, Wait'll You See Our Mr. Schmoke.

4. He's Running for Governor of Maryland, But He Has the Soul of An Undersecretary of Commerce.

3. He Kept Some of the Libraries Open.

2. The City That's Starting to Browse.

1. He Kept Us Out of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Or not.

Clearly, the "serious consideration" Schmoke is giving to a run for governor is a trial balloon, but something else is clear: It's a consideration based strictly on numbers. All other expected candidates are white, and Schmoke is not.

That's not a suggestion that Schmoke's exploiting race for its own sake; that's not his morality. But racial voting patterns are ......TC fact of life, and Schmoke and political adviser Larry Gibson are students of political facts. The numbers, at least in a Democratic primary, are on their side. But it still leaves the original question: The city being such a mess, on what City Hall triumphs does Schmoke base his campaign?

"It's not easy being mayor of a big city at a time like this," says one City Council member, who asked not to be identified. "I suppose you could point that out. But I'm not sure you run a campaign that says, 'It could have been worse.' "

True, he's served during a time of federal neglect. True, Baltimore's broke, the tax base is shot, the city's got to support most of the state's poor, the elderly, the criminal, the unemployed.

But can he point to significant ways he's triumphed over these sad facts, or merely ways he's kept the roof from falling in? Schmoke's people don't yet have an answer. They don't even seem to think they need an answer, so encouraging are the raw racial numbers.

One irony: Reportedly, Schmoke's people have feared a gubernatorial campaign until now, thinking he couldn't beat a substantial -- and white -- Republican candidate. Last Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Neall told Republican leaders he might not make the gubernatorial run.

Two days later, Kurt Schmoke announced he might.

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