Hopkins' endorsement is weighed Mayoral hopefuls say stamp of approval may not mean much

But support is welcomed

Known for backing multiple contenders, mayor gives nod to 2

March 17, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Just what is an endorsement from outgoing Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, a man maybe as popular as Barney, worth to an aspiring successor?

As Hopkins finishes his final term, several mayoral candidates are wondering about that -- perhaps especially the two candidates to whom he has already given support: Republican M. Theresa DeGraff and Democrat Carl O. Snowden.

Although some candidates say it couldn't hurt to have a Hopkins endorsement, others say it's almost meaningless.

"The people of Annapolis are a very sophisticated electorate here, and they take their politics very seriously," said Dennis M. Callahan, a former Annapolis mayor who will run again this fall as a Democratic candidate. "While most endorsements are welcome, I think it's the issues that count. It's where you stand on annexation, the crisis in public housing, the conference center and open-air drug markets.

"Let's just say that I've lost with endorsements and I've won without endorsements," Callahan said. "Sometimes, it's almost totally and completely insignificant."

Callahan should know. The last time he ran for mayor, he had several ringing endorsements -- including one from then Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- only to lose to Hopkins.

"In Annapolis, it doesn't make much of a difference who is endorsed," said Alderman Dean L. Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent also running for mayor this year. "In a community where people don't know the candidates, endorsements make a difference. But here we know everybody, and endorsements usually don't mean a whole lot."

Also, with the election still several months away, an early sign of support is fairly meaningless, candidates say -- even from Hopkins, a Democrat who has served as an elected official in the historic city for more than two dozen years.

That doesn't stop the mayor, who could not be reached for comment for this article, from speaking out in favor of candidates. Mayoral hopefuls say it's typical "nice guy" behavior for Hopkins, who has served two terms as mayor and can't run for the seat again.

"He always wants to be cooperative and helpful," Johnson said. "But in his defense, he does [endorse] those who he thinks will be good as mayor. For those who he doesn't think will be good, he won't say anything at all."

Recently, DeGraff passed out literature with what appeared to be an endorsement from Hopkins. "Terrie DeGraff will make a great mayor for Annapolis," Hopkins is quoted as saying about the Ward 7 Republican. He is pictured with DeGraff and former County Executive Robert R. Neall.

But Hopkins also has given what seemed like endorsements to Snowden, a Democratic contender. At Snowden's birthday salute last year, Hopkins was videotaped saying, "This man would be the best person to lead the city," the Ward 5 Democrat recalled. After a controversial police shooting in the Robinwood housing community last year, Hopkins repeated the glowing endorsement of Snowden to a packed room at First Baptist Church in Annapolis.

"His endorsement does have some weight," Snowden said, but: "Sure, he's been known to endorse two or three people for the same race.

"Once, Al endorsed four people in a three-way race in 1990," Snowden said. "He endorsed the Democratic candidates and a Republican candidate for House of Delegates, and three of his four people won. But, I think the electorate is much more interested in who will lead us into the 21st century, not who the mayor will support."

But anyone who underestimates the mayor's pull in the city is "foolish," DeGraff warned.

"I don't think you can underestimate Mayor Hopkins' popularity," she said. "If you walk into an elementary school with him, it's like walking in with Barney. They love him. He knows everybody.

"When Al ran for mayor, he didn't make a lot of fancy promises," DeGraff said. "He ran saying, 'I love this city. I've always wanted to be mayor.' That's why he's been in office for so long, and having his support, especially as a Republican candidate, cannot hurt."

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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