Seeking ticket to success

The Political Game

Dixon: Her candidacy for City Council president could enhance the mayoral aspirations of Bell -- or O'Malley.

August 03, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

FRIENDS of Sheila Dixon might want to buy her a new pair of driving gloves.

The West Baltimore councilwoman, a candidate for City Council president, is clearly in the driver's seat when it comes to the city mayoral race.

Last week, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt endorsed City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, giving a critical boost to his campaign. The popular Pratt, who has a base in the West Baltimore church community, is expected to add volunteers and organization that will attract votes to Bell.

The two, however, are still looking for a council president candidate to add to the ticket. Dixon would be the icing on the cake, allowing Bell to brace his candidacy between two dynamic, African-American women to forge the "young, black" ticket, according to Bell supporters.

Bell said he isn't ready to make overtures to Dixon just yet. He wants to see how she will fare in the six-member council president's race.

He might not want to wait too long. Supporters of Bell's mayoral rival and former council partner Martin O'Malley have planted a seed in the Dixon camp about forming a "coalition" ticket. In addition to being considered the brightest floor members of the 18-member council, O'Malley and Dixon have another thing in common: Adrian Harper.

The calm, collected African-American campaign consultant with the 21st Century Group political consulting agency has been working with both candidates. Asked about a possible O'Malley-Dixon ticket, Dixon said, "I'm open to that."

Police nearby as candidates visit rough neighborhoods

Baltimore's mayoral candidates have been standing in rough neighborhoods talking about getting tough on crime -- with police escorts.

Two police cars and officers were parked across the street at the recent Bell news conference at the infamous corner of West Fayette and Monroe streets. Likewise, patrol cars were on hand when O'Malley announced his mayoral bid last month at Harford Road and The Alameda.

Weeks before, officers appeared along the "Walk Through Baltimore" route on the west side taken by mayoral candidate Carl Stokes. Stokes chose Garrison Boulevard, between Gwynns Falls Parkway and Wabash Avenue, because of the rise in drug dealing and prostitution there.

Although candidates haven't requested the police support, Police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said officers have been assigned whenever candidates have alerted them about the events.

The police are sent because the events tend to attract crowds, Weinhold said. The police presence is designed to prevent any problems, Weinhold said.

Balog downplays reports he's raising funds for Bell

City Public Works Director George G. Balog is distancing himself from reports that he has pledged to raise $250,000 in campaign contributions for Bell.

Balog has been credited with being a chief fund-raiser for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, activity that has put him and underlings under FBI scrutiny. The department has been the subject of a three-year FBI investigation and grand jury probe into allegations that Balog and others pressured companies doing business with the city to contribute to the Schmoke campaign.

Balog denies the accusations, saying they were instituted by disgruntled employees. And although the grand jury probe continues, the lack of FBI action is being held up by city officials as proof that the charges are baseless.

Asked about reports that he is raising money for Bell, Balog replied: "I do not personally raise money."

Balog said, however, he can't prevent his employees from acting on their First Amendment rights. Each campaign season, Balog holds a meeting with employees, detailing city rules on campaigning, including one that bans support while a worker is on city time, he said.

O'Malley isn't pulling any punches about his objections to the DPW fund-raising involvement. At a recent forum sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and ACORN -- the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now -- O'Malley repeated what is becoming a stump campaign pitch.

"Our public works director shouldn't be out shaking down contractors for campaign contributions," O'Malley said. "He should be out cleaning the streets."

The Bell campaign has also downplayed Balog's support, saying there is no agreement calling for Balog to retain his position if Bell wins.

Kaufman hires an attorney for jab at Bell, council

Civic activist candidate A. Robert Kaufman will be the first to tell you that he can be persistent to the point of being annoying.

So even Kaufman had to chuckle at the name of his attorney, whom he hired to file suit against Bell and the City Council for having him thrown out of council chambers last October -- Howard J. Needle.

On having Needle handle his case, Kaufman said, "We're going to really stick it to them."

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