GOP hopefuls struggle to be heard

7 campaign for mayor in Republican primary

August 27, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Democrats outnumber Republican voters 9 to 1, odds that traditionally make the winner of the GOP September primary political road kill in November.

The last Republican to be elected Baltimore mayor was Theodore R. McKeldin, 36 years ago.

Amid the city's 17-candidate Democratic primary brawl, the city's six Republican hopefuls are struggling to have their campaigns heard.

Republican mayoral candidate David F. Tufaro has the support of party leaders in his bid to capture the majority of the 30,000 Republican voters. The developer, lawyer and Roland Park community activist has spent most of his time at mayoral forums reminding voters that many of the city's problems exist after 30 years of Democratic rule.

In addition to calling for fighting crime and improving city schools, Tufaro has been addressing one issue that seems to have fallen off the mayoral radar screen of other candidates: cutting property taxes.

FOR THE RECORD - An article published in the Aug. 27 editions of The Sun incorrectly attributed a statement to political strategist Larry S. Gibson concerning the campaign of Republican candidate Carl Adair. Gibson never told The Sun that he believed that if Adair can win the September primary, city voters might cast November ballots along racial lines. A subsequent article published on Aug. 28 wrongly listed Gibson as Adair's campaign manager. He has no formal role in the campaign. And an Aug. 8 article inaccurately stated that Gibson appeared at forums and rallies with supporters of City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III. The Sun regrets the errors.

Baltimore property taxes are double those of any other jurisdiction in Maryland. For the city to renew itself, having more competitive property taxes is a must, Tufaro contends.

"It's got to be a very high priority of the mayor," he said.

The latest twist in the Republican race is a move by Schmoke political manager Larry S. Gibson, a longtime Democrat. The University of Maryland law professor is aiding Republican candidate Carl M. Adair.

Gibson wants to guide Adair, an African-American, to victory on Sept. 14. Gibson is hoping to create a showdown in November if City Councilman Martin O'Malley, the city's leading white candidate, wins the Democratic primary.

Black voters outnumber whites in the city 60 percent to 40 percent, and Gibson says he believes that if Adair can win the primary in September, city voters might cast November ballots along racial lines.

Adair is familiar with Baltimore politics, calling himself a "McKeldin Republican" in reference to the former mayor's liberal leanings. Adair served as an industrial arts teacher in city schools for 11 years. He also has operated several Amoco service stations and served as an administrator at Coppin State College for a year.

The West Baltimore resident has served short stints on the city planning commission and elections board.

"There is no candidate who has paid the dues in this community" that he has, Adair said.

Adair, 65, said he would retain Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, noting statistics that crime is decreasing. He also wants smaller classes in schools and pledges to create crisis classrooms for disruptive students.

Another familiar face in the GOP race is Little Italy community activist, Roberto Marsili. Marsili has become one of the city's best-known government gadflies for relentlessly criticizing city spending in the housing and public works departments.

The 68-year-old retired stone mason is hoping that his campaign pledge to crack down on government spending will resonate with Republican voters, and he criticizes Tufaro as a "Johnny come lately" to city issues.

"I've been challenging the city for over 10 years," said Marsili. "Where was Tufaro?"

Another community activist in the race is Arthur W. Cuffie Jr. The 66-year-old Bolton Hill resident and retired analyst for the Social Security Administration and National Institutes of Health has built his mayoral platform around a pledge to improve city neighborhoods.

Rounding out the GOP field are political newcomers Melanie M. Taylor and Lynwood H. Leverette.

In recent radio ads, Tufaro spelled out the hurdle that the Republican candidate faces. In a script of a bedtime story to a little boy, the mother notes that "they" say a Republican can't win.

"Why, Mom," the boy replies. "Are the other candidates super good?"

"He's a Republican," the mother replies. "They say he can't be elected mayor ... "

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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