Mary Pat Clarke's ambitions

September 16, 1993

Politics is the art of making the impossible possible. That's why politicians are always keeping an eye out for higher offices and new opportunities. And it is why only a rare person -- such as former Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III -- is able to quit the game and never look back.

A politician never says never. And while being late is one of the mortal sins of politics, being too early is never penalized. Consider the case of Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who has made it known she is going to run for mayor in the Democratic primary in September of 1995.

She made her announcement just two weeks before the self-imposed Sept. 27 deadline Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has set for deciding whether to run for governor. Many people bet he will. If he wins, Ms. Clarke would become mayor to fill out the remaining 10 months of his term.

If Mr. Schmoke runs for governor and loses, the guessing is that he would not seek re-election as mayor. In that case, too, Ms. Clarke would have to be regarded as a front-runner.

Her early declaration of mayoral ambitions seems to have been prompted by the recent reconciliation between Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Schmoke. Since by law the governor cannot run for a third term, the speculation is that he might want to return to the mayor's seat, which he held from 1971 to 1986. Ms. Clarke hopes to stop that kind of speculation cold by pre-empting the field.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of strategizing. Of course, most Baltimoreans have known for years that the 52-year-old Ms. Clarke has been itching to run for mayor. She certainly has been running non-stop, garnering a popular base throughout the city's diverse neighborhoods. She seems to project the same kind of ebullient "do it now" spirit that made Mr. Schaefer so effective during his mayoral tenure.

Now that it is official, the Clarke candidacy may change the inner dynamics of the City Council she chairs. Already in the spring, she had some rough encounters with the council which has usually done things her way. The prospect of the City Council president's job soon becoming vacant may accelerate the jockeying among council members.

Mr. Schmoke's last-minute jitters about declaring for governor also seem to spring from apprehensions about Ms. Clarke succeeding him. Mary Pat Clarke may want to run for mayor but she is also affecting the gubernatorial race.

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