At last, voters to get their say CAMPAIGN 1995

September 12, 1995|By Eric Siegel and JoAnna Daemmrich | Eric Siegel and JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

It's all over but the voting.

Baltimore voters go to the polls today to choose between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke -- two years and about $2 million in campaign expenses after both announced they would seek the city's highest office.

Also at stake in today's Democratic primary are the council presidency and comptroller's office -- as well as 18 councilmanic seats, three in each of six districts.

Republicans, meanwhile, have a choice of three little-known candidates for the right to oppose the winner of the Schmoke-Clarke contest in November's general election in the sole contested race on the GOP side. Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-1 in Baltimore, making victory in the Democratic primary tantamount to election.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. at 289 polling places covering 372 precincts.

Interest in the Democratic mayoral primary extends beyond Baltimore's borders. With Mr. Schmoke leading Mrs. Clarke by just 4 percentage points in a weekend poll, the race has drawn the attention of political scientists and news organizations from around the country. A win by Mrs. Clarke would mark the first time a white challenger has unseated a black incumbent mayor in a major city with a predominantely African-American population.

The closeness of the Schmoke-Clarke contest -- along with equally closely contested races for council president and comptroller -- has led to predictions for a relatively heavy turnout among the city's 268,721 registered Democrats.

Both the mayor, bidding for a third term, and the two-term council president are making extensive get-out-the-vote efforts. The forecast is for perfect September weather, partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-70s. Kelley C. Brohawn, a water taxi driver, also is in the mayoral race.

"I think Democratic turnout will be quite high," said Barbara Jackson, head of the city's election board.

Ms. Jackson predicted the Democratic turnout will be "40 to 45" percent, but added that her figure was conservative. Campaign officials and analysts say the number could approach 50 percent.

Four years ago, when Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke won re-election, Democratic turnout was 40 percent. In 1987, when Mr. Schmoke made history by becoming the city's first elected black mayor and Mrs. Clarke won the council presidency in a three-way race, turnout was 46 percent.

In 1983, when then-mayor William Donald Schaefer won a fourth term over attorney William H. Murphy Jr., 63 percent of registered Democrats cast votes in the primary.

Until this year, the 1983 race was the last time a white and a black were the top contenders for mayor.

Both Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke put in a heavy day of campaigning yesterday. The mayor greeted commuters at the Hopkins metro stop, stumped with state Sen. Clarence W. Blount in West Baltimore and attended a church revival. Mrs. Clarke greeted city sanitation and maintenance workers, made a round of senior centers, and spent the evening rush hour waving at commuters. She also called a news conference with firefighters and police officers to defend herself as "tough on crime" in response to a last-minute television commercial by the mayor that attacks her for offering no solutions during her 16 years in the council.

"I feel good about things," the mayor said, reiterating confidence in the ability of his organization to get his voters to the polls.

"My agenda is for all of Baltimore, and I think I covered a lot of it today. We feel as if we have the momentum we need," Mrs. Clarke said.

In September 1993, Mrs. Clarke announced she would launch a run for mayor this year -- just before Mr. Schmoke said he would forsake a bid for governor to seek a third term.

The candidates have spent about $2 million on the race -- $1.2 million by the mayor and nearly $800,000 by the council president.

Mr. Schmoke plans to vote at 7 a.m. today at Ashburton Elementary School in Northwest Baltimore, while Mrs. Clarke is going to the polls at 2 p.m. at First English Lutheran Church in Tuscany-Canterbury in Northern Baltimore.

No matter what the outcome of the Democratic mayoral primary, city government will have a different look in December.

Four council members -- Lawrence A. Bell III, Vera P. Hall, Joseph J. DiBlasi and Carl Stokes -- are vying for the council presidency ++ seat being vacated by Mrs. Clarke.

And the comptroller's seat also will have a new occupant. The post has been empty since Jacqueline F. McLean resigned in disgrace a year and a half ago after a state prosecutor uncovered her scheme to steal $25,000 in taxpayer money by creating a fictitious employee.

Former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides and accountant Joan M. Pratt are virtually neck-and-neck in the race, according to a weekend poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research for The Sun and WMAR-TV Channel 2.

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