Now the Real Campaign Begins

September 03, 1995

Baltimoreans just waking up to the Sept. 12 primary campaign are in for quite a spectacle. Two Democratic mayoral candidates are tearing at one another; contests for City Council president and comptroller are toss-ups and anything can happen in the races for 18 City Council seats.

Few sights in life are as intriguing as incumbents and challengers running scared. With only one full week remaining before the primary, several are fighting for their political lives.

The neck-and-neck contest for mayor between the incumbent Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke has developed into a particularly contentious and nasty battle.

This is understandable. Both officials are proud people who feel deeply wounded by one another's personal attacks and media criticism of their records and performance. They fight back.

A fierce campaign for the top office increases voter interest. But no amount of human drama or mudslinging should cloud the consideration of candidates' records and platforms. Above all, Baltimore City needs good and efficient government.

More than 100 candidates are running in the Sept. 12 primary election. For them, these are days of nail-biting nervousness. The signals are mixed: There are lots of lawn signs but election forums often draw more candidates and campaign workers than interested voters. What is going on?

Confusion. There is a feeling among political junkies that old and fTC tried-out conventional rules may not apply to this primary election. If this is true, unforeseen upsets are in store.

This feeling of unpredictability is fostered not only by polling results but by such evidence as the failure of Northwest Baltimore's Fifth District New Democratic Club to support either Mr. Schmoke or Mrs. Clarke for mayor and the club's inability to endorse any of the four leading Democratic candidates for the City Council president. In the council race, the club managed to agree on only two endorsements after three rounds of votes.

Bowing to intense outside pressure, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance changed at least one of its initial endorsements. The Second District New Democratic Club is so split it will not put out a council ballot at all in its home district. Uncertainty reigns supreme in City Council races. Five of the current members are relinquishing their seats, assuring considerable automatic rotation among the body's 18 members.

Because Baltimore's voter registration is so overwhelmingly Democratic, the primary usually determines victors in the general election. For that reason, the Sept. 12 vote is Baltimoreans' best chance to change the way their city is governed.

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