Comptroller candidates' styles vary CAMPAIGN 1995

September 08, 1995|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

City comptroller candidate Joan M. Pratt and her entourage of campaign workers scoured Cherry Hill Wednesday, stumping in yet one more city neighborhood plastered with her picture, in the hopes of winning her first elected office.

Yesterday morning at 7:30, her opponent, former State Sen. Julian L. Lapides, was at his daily campaign spot for the 28th week: in front of the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, greeting jurors on their way to duty.

While Ms. Pratt has slogged through dozens of city neighborhoods, slipping her glossy photos on doorknobs, Mr. Lapides figures he has met more than 12,000 voters at the courthouse steps five days a week since February.

As their race nears its close in Tuesday's Democratic primary, each candidate has raised more than $200,000 -- Mr. Lapides with $50,000 of his own money -- and used television, radio and mass mailing to appeal to voters for a job that includes scrutinizing city audits, contracts and real estate deals.

The race, considered an easy win for Mr. Lapides earlier this year, has become a tough campaign as Ms. Pratt, a political novice, has gained steam with $6,000 from the campaign of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and endorsements from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Afro-American and The Sun.

By early summer, Ms. Pratt's upstart campaign had shaken Mr. Lapides, who put his campaign into high gear as he realized her threat.

Her strong support from blacks was particularly troubling to Mr. Lapides, who has said that he hopes his record fighting for civil rights in the state legislature will give him enough support from black voters to get him into office.

Ms. Pratt is black, and Mr. Lapides is white.

In the campaign's last week, Ms. Pratt's campaign is showing strains.

In Cherry Hill, her campaign manager, Julius Henson, barked orders to campaign workers he thought were dallying in their door-to-door campaign.

When a Schmoke campaign worker driving by refused to take some Pratt campaign signs, Mr. Henson went into a tirade against the Schmoke campaign, saying, "Six thousand dollars doesn't get you anywhere. I don't want the notion that Mr. Schmoke and Mr. Gibson are doing anything for our campaign." Larry Gibson is Mr. Schmoke's campaign chairman.

Mr. Henson said Schmoke supporters had refused to give Ms. Pratt's campaign money. He then accused the Schmoke campaign of "working behind the scenes" to help Mr. Lapides by failing to lean on some political clubs to endorse Ms. Pratt.

The Eastside Democratic Organization and the 43/44 Democratic Club, for example, endorsed Mr. Schmoke and Mr. Lapides.

Mr. Gibson "could have been more forceful in getting the clubs to endorse Joan," he said.

Mr. Henson was taken to task in the Afro-American's endorsement of Ms. Pratt for using "bullying tactics" and making "a veiled threat of the possible economic repercussions this newspaper could face if it failed to endorse Ms. Pratt."

Mr. Henson denied the charge, but Mr. Lapides raised questions this week about Mr. Henson's role in the campaign, saying, "Does [Ms. Pratt] have the ability to do the job without being his puppet? He may be the defacto comptroller."

Ms. Pratt defended her campaign manager, saying, "He is running the campaign. He is not running me." She added that if she is elected, Mr. Henson will not be given a job in the comptroller's office.

Ms. Pratt appears to have gained polish in her face-to-face campaigning in neighborhoods where people have begun to recognize her and have promised to vote for her.

She has also gone on television with an ad that touts the Sun endorsement and on radio, where she thanks her mother "for your prayers and your hope."

While Ms. Pratt campaigns with a truck, loudspeaker and a large group of supporters, Mr. Lapides has said he prefers to $l campaign by himself in the mornings at the courthouse. This week, one campaign worker said, "We have to ask Jack to come along with him."

The former state senator carefully tailors his pitch to each voter -- particularly telling black voters which black politicians have endorsed him from their neighborhoods.

Ms. Pratt and Mr. Henson say they hope their dogged door-to-door campaign and media advertising will win the race. They also hope Mr. Lapides is not as well known by voters as the former state senator believes.

"He's left no footprints," Mr. Henson says of Mr. Lapides' campaign.

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