Stokes gets 273-church coalition's support

Businessman registers as 12th mayoral candidate

July 02, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

An organization representing 273 Baltimore churches announced its support yesterday for mayoral hopeful Carl F. Stokes', even as a 12th candidate joined the crowded race for the city's top job.

The Rev. Melvin Tuggle II, president of Clergy United in the Revitalization of East Baltimore and a close friend of Stokes, said during a news conference yesterday at the coalition's East Baltimore headquarters that his organization will back Stokes' mayoral bid.

Tuggle praised Stokes, a Democrat, for having a vision that seeks to include the faith community in combating the city's social ills, from problems in the school system to drug trafficking on the streets.

"Without a vision, the people will perish," Tuggle said, quoting the Bible. "The CURE organization supports Carl Frank Stokes for our next watchman."

Stokes said he welcomed the endorsement because he believes the clergy and their churches will play vital roles in rebuilding the city's troubled neighborhoods.

"As mayor, I pledge to work with the faith community," he said. "As mayor, I will work in partnership with the faith community. The faith community is the most tremendous asset we have."

CURE's endorsement came as businessman Richard R. Riha registered as the city's 12th mayoral candidate. Riha, 55, owner of Riha Hardware and Pool, plans to publicly announce his candidacy at noon Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

In an interview, Riha, who has never run for public office, said yesterday that he believed the city needed new energy to promote safety and improve education for its youth.

"Baltimore has many things to be proud of, and I want to continue building it to become a leading city within our state," said Riha, a Democrat from Northeast Baltimore.

With no mayoral incumbent, the field continues to grow to one of the most crowded in decades. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who announced in December that he would not seek a fourth term, described the race as "a different kind of campaign."

"I just think [Tuesday's filing deadline] is going to be a very interesting event," Schmoke said. "I think there are going to be some people waiting until the very end" to join the race.

The mayor said that this election year should produce highly competitive races because citizens groups have been posing tough questions to candidates about the city's future.

"What I've been really pleased with is the turnout at the forums," Schmoke said. "Elections are a referendum on the future."

Schmoke has vowed to remain on the campaign sidelines and does not plan to endorse a mayoral candidate. He had said that he would involve himself in the race if he thought it were necessary, referring to his opposition to a possible mayoral bid by state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a former mayor and former governor.

It appears that Schaefer will remain out of the race, and Schmoke is distancing himself from the political fray.

"I think it's time for me on the campaign to keep my mouth shut," Schmoke said.

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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