Rally incident disturbs candidate's supporters

Bell backer wants reassurance tactics will not happen again

August 11, 1999|By Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn | Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Fallout from the disruption of a mayoral rival's political rally continued to dog City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III yesterday as a key political backer warned that he should get his sluggish campaign in gear.

Also yesterday, former City Councilman Carl Stokes gained political support from two key groups -- religious and political.

The comments about Bell from West Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. came as opponents challenged Bell's assertion that he was unaware of plans to disrupt last week's political rally for rival and council colleague Martin O'Malley.

More than 50 Bell supporters shouted down state political leaders endorsing O'Malley at the event Thursday. Bell said Monday he had dismissed his campaign consultant, Julius Henson, and that Henson organized the rally without his authorization.

Mitchell, who -- with his cousin, state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV -- endorsed Bell in June, remained unconvinced yesterday that Henson will no longer play a role in the campaign.

"I won't be active in the campaign until I know that those types of actions are completely stopped and Lawrence breaks away from that," Mitchell said. "I was embarrassed by the incident that took place last week. I said I didn't want to be a part of a campaign like that."

Mitchell expressed concern over Bell's low-key campaigning. While O'Malley and Stokes have been holding press conferences and issuing position papers on how they would run the city, Bell has failed to keep pace.

"What would satisfy me is to see Lawrence out doing what he does best," Mitchell added. "That's getting out there with the people."

Former City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, also an early Bell supporter, has expressed similar sentiments.

"Lawrence Bell has always been very responsive," Clarke said Friday in reaction to the rally flap. "I'm asking him to support the image that I have known for years."

O'Malley supporters spent yesterday challenging Bell's statement that he did not know of the rally disruption plans.

Bell said Monday he did not authorize the political raid and was embarrassed by it. However, state Sen. Joan Carter Conway said yesterday that she saw Bell's brother, Marshall, among the group of hecklers at the start. Marshall Bell once had been campaign manager for his brother.

"I saw Marshall Bell leading the parade," said Conway, who endorsed O'Malley two days before the rally incident.

David Brown, Bell campaign spokesman, declined to comment about Henson's status. He said that despite comments by Councilman Mitchell, Sen. Mitchell continues to work with the campaign.

The senator "has been a friend to the campaign," Brown said. "His support has not been wavering. He has worked closely with the candidate to ensure victory."

State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the influential Northwest Baltimore Democrat who organized last week's O'Malley endorsement, also rejected Bell's disavowal of the rally plans.

"I am convinced that this effort was conceived at the highest level of the campaign," Rawlings said.

Former city councilman and mayoral hopeful Stokes continued yesterday to build his lengthy list of endorsements. Stokes picked up a strong contingent of West Baltimore state lawmakers to add to a sizable group of lawmakers from East Baltimore.

Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the Senate's majority leader and Maryland's elder statesman, was joined by delegates from the 41st District in endorsing Stokes in front of City Hall.

Blount credited Stokes with demonstrating an ability to work with all levels of government -- a key to strengthening the city, he said.

"Carl is a man of vision and he is the only candidate who will deliver for Baltimore," Blount said.

Blount's endorsement brought Stokes' total to three state senators, 14 delegates and three council members -- more elected officials than any other candidate.

Stokes received the Blount endorsement while the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of 200 African-American churches, met for about two hours on its endorsement. The ministers declined to announce their choice, but a source who attended said the group will back Stokes.

Alliance leaders will announce their decision at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Metropolitan United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Douglas I. Miles, alliance president, said the debate was vigorous and the selection "almost totally unanimous." Miles, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church on Greenmount Avenue, where the meeting was held, said many of the ministers were upset over "insensitivity" Sunday on the part of O'Malley.

At a mayoral forum held by Baltimore United in Leadership Development (BUILD), O'Malley said "you people" when he discussed his support of the organization's Child First day care plans in the City Council.

A low grumble rolled through the mostly African-American crowd after O'Malley's words. In 1992, presidential candidate Ross Perot was taken to task for using the comment at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention.

O'Malley clarified his comments yesterday, saying that he was referring to BUILD as an organization.

"What I meant was `you' as BUILD," he said. "I meant `you that lobbied so hard.' "

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