Old Carl and young Carl Snowden's run will reveal much about race relations in Annapolis.

April 09, 1997

CARL O. SNOWDEN is a black man. In his youth, he was a civil rights activist.

Those are facts. Whether they loom large in the race for Annapolis mayor this fall depends on the other candidates running for the city's top elected office. The amount of emphasis on these factors will speak volumes about the state of race relations in the state capital.

The issue of race has been attracting a disproportionate amount of attention thus far. Half of the six people considered to be possible candidates for mayor are black. Aside from Mr. Snowden, a Democrat, are two Republicans, Sylvanus B. Jones and Michael T. Brown.

Few people bring up the issue of race in discussing the possibility of Mr. Jones or Mr. Brown winning the GOP primary, perhaps because neither is given much chance of succeeding Mayor Al Hopkins. But race seems to loom large in the context of Mr. Snowden's candidacy.

Even at this early stage, Mr. Snowden, a city alderman, appears to be the front runner. He claims to have already assembled a sizable treasury, $75,000. He could easily double the amount by tapping a network of friends and supporters outside Annapolis.

The unstated -- and contrived -- issue so far is Mr. Snowden's youthful activism 25 years ago when he challenged the city's established order as Annapolis emerged from segregation. He was aggressive and confrontational, which bothered people. Especially irksome, in their eyes, was that Young Carl often prevailed, particularly on discrimination issues. In retrospect, even his bitter opponents have to concede that Mr. Snowden was on the right side of most of these arguments.

Residents are entitled to judge Mr. Snowden -- or any other candidate -- on his or her behavior before becoming an elected official, but any fair-minded voter would have to give more weight to a candidate's performance while in office. As an alderman representing the Fifth Ward for 12 years, Mr. Snowden has tackled serious issues and demonstrated leadership on economic and fiscal issues.

How he handled himself on the Annapolis City Council is a much better predictor of how he might act as mayor than actions he took when he was a rebellious young man.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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