Republican mayoral nominee David F. Tufaro welcomed the mayor of Jersey City, N.J., to town yesterday, hoping that some of his fellow Republican's success against overwhelming Democratic odds will rub off next week.
Tufaro, a Roland Park developer making his first bid for elective office, faces Democrat Martin O'Malley in the Nov. 2 general election.
Bret Schundler stunned Jersey City in 1993 when he was elected mayor in a city in which Republicans are 6 percent of registered voters -- half of Baltimore's figure.
Tufaro has named Schundler and his policies as inspiration for how a Republican can be successful in a Democratic city.
Crime in Jersey City over the past seven years has dropped 40 percent, Schundler said. And investment in the city across the river from Manhattan, N.Y., has begun to turn around, with Schundler's mostly Hispanic neighborhood having the third most residential investment in the nation, he said.
"We do have investments going back into our neighborhoods," Schundler said. "It doesn't require that somebody be a genius, it requires that you do the right thing."
Baltimore GOP activists credit Tufaro with running the most credible Republican mayoral campaign in 32 years. Tufaro has succeeded in establishing a GOP voice by sticking to the issues, much like Schundler.
Tufaro has called for school vouchers, allowing private companies to bid on municipal services, and has pledged to cut the property tax rate, which is two times as high as any other jurisdiction in the state.
"The odds are very difficult," Tufaro said of Tuesday's election. "But the odds were even more difficult in Jersey City."
One area where the two candidates differ is on crime-fighting strategy. Schundler supports zero tolerance that is promised by O'Malley, although he calls it "broken windows" policing.
Locally, opponents of zero tolerance, including Tufaro, contend that enforcing nuisance crimes will result in more police brutality complaints. Schundler said misconduct and brutality have not been an issue in his city.
"That has to do with how well your police are trained," he said.
Jersey City also uses ticketing, with fines ranging from $250 to $1,000 for crimes such as purchasing drugs, in an effort to keep jail space open for more violent offenders.
Tufaro and O'Malley have stated that they will go to Annapolis to persuade the state legislature to allow Baltimore police more citation powers.
Schundler added that a key component of fighting crime is increasing the number of minority police officers. He created a special committee of church leaders and community activists to work toward creating parity between the police force and city population, which is 70 percent minority.
Schundler instructed Tufaro and a room full of Republican City Council hopefuls not to focus on winning next week. The key, he said, is running an issues-oriented campaign.
"Sometimes it takes someone to say, `I want to make my community a better place, and I'm willing to lose an election to do it,'" he said. "Fundamentally, people are not Republicans and Democrats, they're human beings."