The leadership of Baltimore's Senate delegation was on the line yesterday in a primary election marked by one fewer legislative district but no shortage of choices.
Voter turnout in the city was light for most of the day. By 7 p.m. -- an hour before polls closed -- 27 percent of registered voters had voted, election officials said.
State Sen. John A. Pica Jr. faced a stiff challenge from Del. Curtis S. Anderson in a bitter contest in Northeast Baltimore's 43rd District. The race took a particularly nasty turn in the past few weeks, as the candidates fought over the support of homeless advocate Bea Gaddy and traded charges over an inflammatory brochure calling Senator Pica a liar.
It was the second hard-fought campaign in a row for Mr. Pica, the chairman of the city's Senate delegation and three-term incumbent. In 1990, he was re-elected by 44 votes in absentee ballots.
Three of the city's other seven Senate seats were also being hotly contested.
In East Baltimore's 45th District, the self-described "sabbatical" of Sen. Nathan C. Irby Jr. set up a struggle between former City Councilman Nathaniel J. McFadden and the man who unseated him, current Councilman Carl Stokes. In the name's-the-same tradition of city politics, political unknown Clyde Stokes also was running, although he remained something of a mystery because he failed to launch a visible campaign.
In Southeast Baltimore's 46th District, the gubernatorial candidacy of American Joe Miedusiewski opened up a tough race for his seat between first-term Councilman Perry Sfikas and longtime Del. Anthony M. DiPietro Jr. The campaign featured a final barrage of attention-grabbing ads by Mr. Sfikas, prompting Delegate DiPietro to go to court in an unsuccessful attempt to halt them. Thomas Siemek, 80, who served in the House of Delegates in the 1940s, is considered a long-shot candidate.
And in West Baltimore's 40th District, first-term incumbent Ralph M. Hughes was being challenged by Norman Brailey, the son of the man he defeated in 1990, and attorney Alfred Nance.
In the other Senate races, 42nd's Barbara A. Hoffman was unopposed. Sens. Clarence W. Blount in the 41st District, Larry Young in the 44th and George W. Della Jr. in the 47th faced only token challenges.
The number of legislative districts dominated by city residents shrank from nine to eight after reapportionment based on Baltimore's declining population. And three of those districts -- the 42nd, 46th and 47th --now include parts of Baltimore County, while the old 44th that encompassed Bolton Hill and center city was obliterated. The demographic makeup of other districts changed with redistricting.
The effect of the changes was most apparent in the races for 23 seats in the House of Delegates.
In Northwest Baltimore's 42nd District, four incumbents -- Maggie McIntosh, S. I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, James W. Campbell and Leon Albin -- were vying for three seats. Mr. Albin used to represent Baltimore County, while the others represented the city.
And one legislative district is divided into 47A, which encompasses South Baltimore, and 47B, which dips into Catonsville. In a tight race, city voters got to choose two delegates from five candidates. Two incumbents -- R. Charles Avara and Brian K. McHale -- fought to keep their seats from challenges mounted by Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, former Councilman Edward L. Reisinger and community activist Randolph M. Collins.
In the last days of what was otherwise simply a close race, Mr. Collins sent out brochures blaming Councilman Murphy for the rising crime rate in Baltimore.
The 40th and 44 districts in West Baltimore and Midtown boasted the largest field of House candidates, with 12 and 10 respectively.
In the 40th District, developer Robert L. Clay drew criticism for an expensive campaign financed largely out of his own pocket. Questions also were raised about Mr. Clay's residency and personal history, which includes being charged, but never convicted, in two shootings.
Mr. Clay was challenging incumbents Tony E. Fulton, Salima Siler Marriott and Howard "Pete" Rawlings. Also seeking the seats were former Del. Frank M. Conaway, social worker Lisa B. Williams and community worker Roland H. Holmes.
The 44th District race was enlivened by the candidacy of Clarence M. Mitchell IV, scion of the illustrious civil rights family.
Mr. Mitchell's name recognition bolstered his chances of unseating one of the incumbents, but led to charges that he was simply trading on his family's reputation.
John E. Hannay, a gay leader, and Verna Jones, a housing activist, also launched strong campaigns against incumbents Elijah Cummings, John D. Jefferies and Ruth M. Kirk.
Although overshadowed by the tense Senate race, the incumbent delegates in the 43rd District also faced strong challenges by some newcomers, including William B. Henry III, an aide to Council President Mary Pat Clarke.