Clarke needs to look like a mayor with answers

June 16, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

There are two things Mary Pat Clarke must do in order to become the next mayor of Baltimore.

Unfortunately for her, she has no idea what they are.

Take how she handled her recent "endorsement" by William Donald Schaefer.

If I were her (or even if I were she), I would have made a big deal out of an endorsement.

I would have held a press conference. I would have assembled a cheering crowd. I would have blown up a balloon or two.

But most of all I would have made sure Schaefer was up on stage with me so he could lift my hand in victory for the TV cameras.

Mary Pat Clarke did none of these things.

Schaefer told a Sun reporter about his support for Clarke after a speech at a symposium on aging.

It made the front page, but it also carried this extraordinary line: "Mrs. Clarke was unavailable for comment. . . . "

Mrs. Clarke was unavailable for comment about her own endorsement?

Is she confusing an endorsement with an indictment?

I know from personal experience that Clarke hides out from reporters when she thinks she is going to get asked tough questions.

But Schaefer's endorsement was supposed to be good news.

In fact, a real endorsement is one of the things she has dreamt about. (Two of the others are the editorial endorsement of The Sun and an independent media poll showing her close to or beating Kurt Schmoke in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.)

So what did TV do with the Schaefer endorsement story? At 11 p.m., Channel 11 gave it 45 seconds; Channel 2 gave it 25 seconds, and Channel 13 did not carry it at all.

Did Channel 2 and Channel 11 at least interview Schaefer so he could expand on his endorsement? Nope.

Schaefer was unavailable for comment.

First Clarke hides out from The Sun, then Schaefer hides out from TV? This is how they handle an endorsement?

But maybe we can figure out why. Let's start with some basics:

1. Schaefer's endorsement of Clarke is important only to those people who like Schaefer.

2. But Schaefer continues to hold out the possibility that he will run for mayor himself if Clarke loses the primary.

3. So if you like Schaefer, you must vote against Clarke in the primary in order to get Schaefer to run.

A real endorsement would have been good news for Clarke. But what Schaefer gave her was more like a stab in the back.

And it comes at a time when Clarke desperately needs to get into Phase II of her campaign.

Phase I was the easy part: Attack Schmoke and spread doom and gloom about the city's problems.

Phase II is the tough part: Convince people she can deliver the solutions.

Today people look at Clarke and think: Tough critic.

What she needs is for people to look at her and think: Good mayor.

She needs positives.

So what were the positives that Schaefer cited to The Sun in backing Clarke?

"I think she would appoint competent people," he said.

And that was it.

Lukewarm? It's barely even body temperature.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Clarke's pollster, the highly respected John Russonello.

"Mary Pat's challenge is to explain to the voters two things," he said. "One, that the mayor's office bears some responsibility for the condition of the city -- you may like Schmoke personally, but he can't continue in office because the city has got to do better.

"Two, Mary Pat Clarke has to offer solutions not addressed by the mayor. This race needs to be about how people's lives can be improved by someone who delivers."

Clarke has to demonstrate that she is that person. She has to show competency. She has less than 90 days in which to show people a smart, orderly campaign in order to persuade them she will run a smart, orderly mayor's office.

She doesn't need weird scenarios that involve Schaefer; she doesn't non-endorsement endorsements, she doesn't need hiding out from reporters because she is afraid of tough questions.

We all know that Mary Pat Clarke wants to be mayor in the worst way.

And so far that is exactly how she's going about it.

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