Hall, Stokes eye top council post '95 race will decide Clarke's successor

November 04, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Baltimore City Council members Vera P. Hall and Carl Stokes are planning to run for council president in 1995, clouding a picture that's already uncertain because of the expected mayoral clash between incumbent Kurt L. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

Ms. Hall, 56, a two-term council member from the 5th District and chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said she plans to run for the council presidency in hopes of providing leadership in combating the city's social and crime problems.

"I'm sick and tired of black folks looking outside themselves for reasons why our children are killing each other," she said. "It is time for us to stand up and say we are responsible."

Ms. Hall said she wanted to dispel rumors that she is interested in being lieutenant governor.

"As chair of the party, it is counterproductive for people to think that I'm going to get involved in that race," she said. "What I am interested in is running for City Council president in 1995."

She also said that she wanted to assure potential supporters that she is not planning to run for the state Senate.

Ms. Hall's announcement nearly two years before the election hastened Mr. Stokes' decision to step forward.

"I wasn't ready to start to campaign for another year," Mr. Stokes said. "Obviously, there are people starting to make moves. Because other people are making moves, it forces me into the posture of having to tell people I'm running."

Mr. Stokes, 43, said he wants to bring a stronger sense of activism to the council presidency.

He also said he wanted to forge closer ties between the mayor and council.

"For whatever reasons, the president and mayor have not been the closest of teammates over the past six years," Mr. Stokes said. "I'm both their allies. Needless to say, it's a very tenuous position."

When told of Mr. Stokes' plans, Ms. Clarke offered praise for the second-term councilman. "I'm from the 2nd District. Carl and I kind of came up together. . . . obviously, he is a hometown man to me," she said. "I understand his approach to his work and I appreciate it."

Despite the kind words, Mr. Stokes said he plans to run for the post without aligning himself with Mr. Schmoke or Ms. Clarke.

"I'm running as long as I can independent of the mayoral candidates," Mr. Stokes said. "I want to solidify my own base across the city and making sure people know and understand my philosophy."

Ms. Hall, meanwhile, is running with the apparent blessing of Mr. Schmoke's political organization -- a factor that could eventually force Mr. Stokes squarely into Ms. Clarke's camp.

Larry Gibson, Mr. Schmoke's chief political strategist, indicated that the mayor would be inclined to support Ms. Hall, who is the council's vice president and floor leader for the administration's legislative initiatives.

"Obviously, the mayor has a lot of confidence in her because he asked her to be his floor leader. And certainly, he supported her election as vice president of the council and chair of the party," he said.

Despite the likely support of the mayor -- and the financial and organizational support that it would bring -- Ms. Hall took pains to say she was independent of Mr. Schmoke.

"Anybody who knows me and works with me knows I'm independent," she said. "This is not about being an extension of the mayor; it's about leading the council."

Others had their doubts about her independence.

"She's a Schmoker, 100 percent a Schmoke person," said Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, who says he is considering running for the council presidency.

"Her interest is his, and vice versa. . . . I know Vera wouldn't make a move without plotting it with the Schmoke forces."

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