Pitiful election turnout City voters: Local Republican Party's lack of vitality is bad for Baltimore.

November 09, 1995

ON A COLD, dreary, damp Tuesday that had many Baltimoreans thinking, at least for a moment, that they should stay in bed, a lot of people rejected entirely the notion of walking the extra steps necessary to go vote.

In a town where nine out of 10 voters call themselves Democrats, it was that party's primary that counted. The Republicans put forth candidates in all but one City Council race, but voters showed their disdain by not showing up. Only 23 percent of the city's registered voters went to the polls.

Disinterest on such a grand scale is not good for the city. Although voters were presented with clear choices in the primary race between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, their Democratic perspectives on urban problems weren't really that different. If you listened to the Republican candidates, you heard fresh viewpoints on issues ranging from single-member council districts to school vouchers. But because the party lacks credibility at the local level, those ideas died with the candidates' meager campaigns.

Some progress was made, though, even with the smallest voter turnout in at least 50 years. The city GOP presented voters will some decent candidates. In fact, many political observers thought Sixth District candidate Joseph Brown Jr. had a real chance. But he was matched against two incumbents and a former council member. Still, Mr. Brown's candidacy provided the GOP some important lessons. It showed the local party has potential when it has an attractive candidate.

It was encouraging to see the state Republican Party get involved this time in the city elections. The Maryland GOP mailed brochures to 19,000 Democratic households and to 8,000 Republican homes asking for votes for the Republican candidates. The state GOP might have been more effective had it concentrated its efforts behind a strong council nominee such as Mr. Brown, who suffered from lack of name recognition and a limited campaign staff. By fielding candidates who appeal to all voters and giving them greater financial support, the GOP will speed the day when Baltimoreans won't feel comfortable staying home on a November Election Day.

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