Republicans, Democrats gird for Annapolis mayoral primaries 'Dress rehearsal' or GOP shake-up?

September 19, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

One candidate sees Tuesday's Republican mayoral primary in Annapolis as a "dress rehearsal," while another sees it as a chance to shake up the GOP old order.

"We decided to use it as a dress rehearsal for the general [election]," said Larry Vincent, a 47-year-old Main Street clothier and 1989 Republican standard bearer who has spent the past two years campaigning for the city's top office.

But 15 minutes before the candidates' filing deadline last month, political newcomer Michael W. Fox, a manufacturer's representative, decided his talent to build consensus could help run Annapolis.

"I'm a hands-on kind of guy," said Mr. Fox, who was spurred to race by the active discouragement of the city's GOP hierarchy. "I want to get in where I can do something fast."

The two men, along with perennial candidate and political gadfly Louise M.R. Beauregard, have made the GOP race one of the most sharply contested in recent memory.

Mr. Vincent owns Laurance Clothing, a men's shop he started when he arrived in Annapolis 24 years ago from his native Baltimore. He lives on Maryland Avenue with Joyce Kaminkow, a civic activist and store owner.

Focusing on crime, race relations and city spending, Mr. Vincent says he would be an "activist mayor."

With the help of some 200 volunteers he already has knocked on an estimated 3,300 doors throughout the city. Yesterday, his supporters dropped 5,000 fliers on the doorsteps of GOP voters.

"We think we have a very good base to start with this time," said Mr. Vincent, who captured 41 percent of the vote four years ago in his losing battle against Democratic Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins.

Mr. Fox is a Minnesota native who moved to Texas during the booming 1980s. With a friend, he created a 300-employee corporation whose business interests ranged from land development and restaurants to representing manufacturers' product lines. He even got involved in acting, doing bit parts on the TV series "Dallas."

The Texas bust brought him to Annapolis six years ago. He lives on Windwhisper Lane with his wife and two children.

After watching the city's problems, from crime to schools and noisy downtown bars, Mr. Fox said he decided to put his business skills to work. He views Mr. Vincent as a "nice guy who dresses well" and is "wrapped up in downtown," but has little vision for the rest of the city.

And he became convinced that Mayor Hopkins and Dennis Callahan -- the former Democratic mayor who is running as an independent -- would split the vote and allow Mr. Vincent to slip into City Hall's corner office. That "didn't sit well" with him, Mr. Fox said.

He said he plans to "aggressively" go after business, attract more office space and perhaps a convention/conference center. And he favors looking at year-round school as a way to beef-up education, as well as a midnight curfew for 16-year-olds to combat crime and nagging noise problems near the City Dock.

Mr. Fox said he got a chilly reception from the GOP hierarchy, who thought he was "rocking the boat" by challenging Mr. Vincent.

"I felt he got into the race way too late," admitted Heidi Berry, chairwoman of the city's Republican Central Committee. "I thought maybe he should start somewhere else and work his way up."

While some said the primary will sidetrack Mr. Vincent as he prepares for the general election in November, Mr. Vincent said he welcomes the primary. But he was less charitable about his opponent's charges: "He's a crock," Mr. Vincent said.

Mr. Vincent denied he was focused only on downtown issues and pointed to a list of widespread civic and political activities in his brochure. They included the Save the Circle Theater Study Group, a county sheriff's study commission, the Chamber of Commerce and a city Planning and Zoning Advisory Committee.

"Mr. Fox suffers from not having any experience in the community," Mr. Vincent said. "As far as I know, he's done nothing in his ward or the city."

"That's probably an asset," replied Mr. Fox. If other candidates have so much civic and government experience, then "why are we in the situation we're in?" he asked. "They've got to have fresh ideas to go forward."

Mr. Vincent, meanwhile, disagrees with his opponent's fresh idea of a curfew. "I'm against it as a matter of basic civil rights," he said.

Schools, said Mr. Vincent, are a county, rather than city, issue. But he did say the mayor should push for more county aid for Annapolis schools to provide tutors and more security.

Both candidates would like to see police better deployed in the neighborhoods. They also would try to resolve stubborn police labor troubles by seeking parity in pay and benefits with neighboring jurisdictions.

Moreover, the two GOP candidates would meet with downtown restaurant and bar owners in an effort to resolve noise and congestion problems.

Mr. Vincent also would like to see a citizen police auxiliary created to better patrol the downtown area, perhaps using the harbor master's office near the City Dock.

He pledges to ease the city's racial tensions by meeting with black leaders and encouraging economic development in African-American communities. "We're two separate and unequal communities, and it's very sad," Mr. Vincent said.

Even though he spent two years laying the groundwork for the campaign and recruited a small army of volunteers, Mr. Vincent said he is taking nothing for granted. Some voters may favor Mr. Fox, and Mrs. Beauregard has the name recognition along with the potential to be a protest vote, he said.

Still, with his volunteers manning the phone banks for the week before the primary, Mr. Vincent is confident of victory. "Am I going to win? Yes, certainly" he said.

Mr. Fox is hopeful. But even if he doesn't capture the primary, he will return with what his flier calls "a fresh, common sense approach to government and a welcome change from 'business as usual.'

"I'm in this now," he said.

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