Schmoke easily defeats Clarke Bell wins in four-way race for City Council president City Primary Election 1995

September 13, 1995|By Eric Siegel and JoAnna Daemmrich | Eric Siegel and JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writers

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke won a chance to build on his "foundation of progress" by turning back a determined challenge from rival Mary Pat Clarke in yesterday's Democratic mayoral primary with an unexpectedly wide margin.

With all of the city's 372 precincts reporting, Mr. Schmoke, bidding for a third term, had 59 percent of the vote to 39 percent for the two-term council president. Kelley Culver Brohawn, a water taxi driver, had 2 percent.

The Schmoke campaign declared victory at 10:40 p.m., and minutes later the mayor stepped before hundreds of cheering supporters who gathered at the Inn at Pier 5 at the Inner Harbor chanting, "Four more years."

Mr. Schmoke, who made history eight years ago by becoming the city's first elected black mayor, urged the crowd to "work together to restore our city."

"Ladies and gentlemen, you won, we won, Baltimore won," said Mr. Schmoke. "We have to move forward now in a wonderful dynamic way. We know good days outweigh the bad and the strengths outweigh the weaknesses."

Mr. Schmoke -- who stressed during the campaign that he was the only candidate who had the respect of state and national leaders -- appeared with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and received a congratulatory phone call on his car phone from President Clinton.

Mrs. Clarke, who sharply criticized the mayor's handling of stubborn urban problems and said that it was "time for a change" in the city's leadership, conceded defeat shortly before 11 p.m.

"We have lost," she told supporters at the 5th Regiment Armory.

Then Mrs. Clarke -- who built a reputation as a pothole-fixer extraordinaire during 16 years on the council, the last eight as president -- made a surprise announcement that she was leaving politics to enter divinity school.

"That's what I'm planning to do. I may change my plans," she said.

As recently as last weekend, Mr. Schmoke's mayoralty was thought to be in serious trouble. A weekend poll put his lead over Mrs. Clarke at 4 percentage points, down from 15 points in late July.

The supposed tightness of the mayor's race drew nationwide attention because a win by Mrs. Clarke would have marked the first time a white challenger had unseated a black incumbent in a major city where blacks make up more than 50 percent of the population.

But the race turned into a blowout for the mayor -- in part because of the largest voter turnout in a dozen years.

A heavy turnout favored Mr. Schmoke, whose appeal is strongest among black voters. Black voters have tended to turn out in lower numbers than whites.

Democratic turnout was 52 percent, up from 40 percent four years ago and 46 percent in 1987.

In several predominantly black neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore, turnout was well over 50 percent. In some of them, such as Clifton-Berea in East Baltimore and Edmondson Village, Mr. Schmoke outpolled Mrs. Clarke by a 10-1 margin.

Meanwhile, the mayor, who had to fend off criticism throughout the contest for his Afro-centric campaign colors, got more than a quarter of the vote in Mount Washington and Roland Park, which are predominantly white. Even in Mrs. Clarke's home precinct, Tuscany-Canterbury in North Baltimore, the mayor got nearly one out of four votes cast.

During the hard-fought campaign, Mr. Schmoke asked for a chance to build on his first two terms and criticized Mrs. Clarke for failing to propose reasonable solutions to the city's woes during her tenure in office.

Mrs. Clarke said the city had gone downhill while the mayor was in office and that it was "time for a change" in leadership.

In other citywide races in the Democratic primary, 4th District Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III won over fellow council members Joseph J. DiBlasi, Carl Stokes and Vera P. Hall in the race for City Council president. Mr. Bell was closely aligned politically with Mrs. Clarke.

Accountant Joan M. Pratt, a Schmoke ally, beat former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides for city comptroller, a position that has been vacant since Jacqueline F. McLean resigned 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.

But another Schmoke ally, 3rd District Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham was unseated. Another council incumbent, 1st District Councilman John Cain, seemingly lost, but that race was so close that it might hinge on absentee ballots.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Schmoke, 45, and Mrs. Clarke, 54, took to the streets and the air in last-ditch appeals to their supporters.

Sound trucks plastered with Schmoke campaign posters cruised through city neighborhoods, blaring a recording by actor Charles S. "Roc" Dutton urging them to vote for the mayor, while a plane flew over the city trailing a banner that read, "Mary Pat Clarke for Mayor."

Both candidates made final swings through the city.

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