Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's surprise decision to seek a third term in 1995 makes him the front-runner in what promises to be the first really spirited Democratic mayoral primary since 1971. City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who announced her candidacy last week, will put up a good fight. But Mr. Schmoke's incumbency will make it difficult for her to raise money or garner endorsements from their often-overlapping political constituencies.
Yet it will be good for Baltimoreans to be exposed to the very different visions that are espoused by these two rivals.
After nearly six years of trying to come up with a workable economic development strategy, Mayor Schmoke has settled on promoting tourism, entertainment and culture. As he outlined his political plans yesterday, he stood behind an architectural mock-up of downtown Baltimore with $2.5 billion worth of new construction under way or on the drawing board.
By the time the 1995 mayoral primary comes around, such glitzy projects as the $161 million Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and a $32 million virtual reality sports extravaganza in the Pier 4 Power Plant should be completed, underscoring the Schmoke administration's role remaking Baltimore's Inner Harbor and downtown.
Ms. Clarke is likely to draw her main support from among community activists in Baltimore's varied neighborhoods. It is no secret that crime and urban problems have made many vTC Baltimoreans unhappy about their mayor. If Mr. Schmoke cannot change this situation -- by appointing a new police commissioner capable of both revitalizing the department and attacking drugs and violence -- many residents may decide to cast their lot with the energetic Ms. Clarke and her promise of change for the better.
"Progress is being made, even at this very difficult time," Mr. Schmoke said yesterday in a reference to the city's condition. Many problems are indeed awesome. And while few are unique to Baltimore, that is scant consolation to middle-class residents who are continuing to vote with their feet by moving to surrounding counties in search of safety, better schools and lower taxes.
Now that both Mr. Schmoke and Ms. Clarke have declared their candidacy for the city's top job, Baltimoreans will have ample opportunity to compare their respective platforms, achievements and visions.
The protracted campaign ought to energize the city. At last, voters will have a clear choice.