Last push emphasizes getting voters to polls CAMPAIGN 1995

September 11, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

After all the charges and counter-charges, the fund raising and fund spending, the polls, posturing and promises, winning the Democratic mayoral primary will boil down to turning out the vote.

In the past week, the campaigns of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke have slammed their organizations into high gear to spur voters to the polls tomorrow, and then, of course, ensure they "vote right."

"It's a full-court press," said Larry S. Gibson, Mr. Schmoke's campaign manager and chief political handler. He is trying to return the mayor to City Hall for a third term.

"We've done everything," said Linda Eberhart, chief political strategist for Mrs. Clarke. The challenger has closed an earlier gap and is within striking distance of the mayor. "We haven't not done anything."

For both sides, that has included printing, mailing and distributing last-minute campaign literature, setting up and staffing telephone banks, spreading the word door-to-door, handing out and erecting lawn and window signs, and unleashing sound trucks on the city.

The campaigns also have labored to train poll workers, print sample ballots, arrange for "flush teams" to get registered voters in targeted areas to the polls, order meals for volunteers and rides for the aged and infirm.

Both sides know that the push to Get Out The Vote (G-O-T-V) is critical. Conventional wisdom has it that such efforts account for much as 5 percent of the overall turnout in an election.

"If we're moving 3 to 5 percent of the voters with G-O-T-V, in a close election like this, it's very important," said Ms. Eberhart, as red-and-white-shirted volunteers hustled past her in Clarke headquarters at 2511 N. Charles St.

To the uninitiated, the G-O-T-V push in the frenzied, final days of a campaign appears to be sheer chaos, as thousands of volunteers are mobilized behind one candidate or the other.

It is, in fact, a detail-oriented battle plan -- calculated, though hardly an exact science -- based on analyses of voting trends, candidates' strengths and weaknesses, and, always, the numbers.

Clarke supporters late last week hunched over tables at her headquarters in a three-story Charles Village rowhouse, stuffing envelopes for a final mailing -- the last of more than 1 million pieces of campaign literature distributed this year on her behalf.

For the final push, Mr. Gibson ordered 100,000 copies of a 28-page, full-color newspaper-style tabloid called "Baltimore Progress," which touts what the Schmoke administration has done for 50 areas of the city.

Those were dropped at the Schmoke headquarters, a downtown office building at 213 St. Paul Place, on Thursday night and were gone by Friday afternoon. Another 75,000 were delivered Saturday.

Over the weekend, Schmoke supporters also hand-delivered to 50,000 city residents copies of a slick 156-page book of administration highlights called "Reasons to Be Proud" -- in addition to 50,000 copies already mailed to voters.

In this election, Mr. Gibson and Ms. Eberhart, experienced strategists with very different styles, serve as generals deploying the troops of two warring armies.

The best recent example of G-O-T-V's importance -- particularly in Baltimore -- is the effort that helped put Gov. Parris N. Glendening over the top by 5,993 votes in November in his race against Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

But the alliances forged for the good of the Democratic Party last year -- a concept that Glendening strategist and Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis refers to as "layering" -- have broken apart in this year's mayoral primary.

Different factions -- labor, church and community groups, political organizations and clubs -- have split, lining up behind one candidate or the other.

As an incumbent mayor, however, Mr. Schmoke has been able to draw from the city's staff for election day volunteers, as he did last year for Mr. Glendening. Just last week, for instance, some of his department heads put out the call to city workers for volunteers for election day duty.

Although the campaigns are understandably secretive about specifics for election day G-O-T-V, some of the plans are high profile. The most visible G-O-T-V effort has been launched by state Sen. Larry Young, the West Baltimore Democrat who has been credited with squeezing out the vote by the busload for Mr. Glendening last year.

Mr. Young has established a "Baltimore 95 -- Get Out The Vote" campaign, a group of community leaders, clergy and politicians organized to back Mr. Schmoke, primarily on the city's west side, which includes the mayor's political base.

Mr. Gibson called Mr. Young's role "very, very important."

As for Mrs. Clarke's G-O-T-V effort, Ms. Eberhart said, "We have a very heavy, street-oriented campaign."

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