Mayoral hopefuls leave fate to voters

City also to decide on four council seats, comptroller today

November 02, 1999

One of every four registered voters in Baltimore are expected to cast ballots today in an election that will bring the most sweeping changes to City Hall since Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke came into office 12 years ago.

City election leaders fear that rain forecast for the area could diminish the turnout of voters being asked to select the city's 47th mayor.

Baltimore also will pick a new City Council, choosing the president and filling four vacancies on the 19-member body. In addition, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt will seek a second four-year term that could boost her for a future mayoral bid.

The name of Democratic Northeast City Councilman Martin O'Malley, 36, will top the city ballot as he faces Republican mayoral nominee David F. Tufaro, a Roland Park developer making his first bid for elected office.

Several Republicans are trying to become the first in 60 years to join the City Council.

Tufaro ran what party activists have called the best Republican mayoral campaign since Theodore R. McKeldin was elected in 1963. Demo-crats in Baltimore outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 9 to 1.

Tufaro has stood apart from O'Malley by calling for a 40 percent cut in city property taxes, which are two times higher than in any other jurisdiction in the state.

Tufaro joined city candidates yesterday on a West Baltimore street corner, where he confronted O'Malley and Democratic supporters one final time.

"If O'Malley were a Republican, they would be all over his back," Tufaro shouted.

O'Malley supporters, waving their green-and-white campaign signs, began shouting, "Who do we want for mayor? O'Malley!"

As the brief encounter ended, Tufaro left, shaking hands with O'Malley.

"I do want the best thing for the city," Tufaro said.

Pumping his fist with his sleeves rolled up, O'Malley joined the crowd at North Avenue and McCulloh Street.

O'Malley, the former prosecutor and defense attorney, surprised the city in September by besting 16 Democratic opponents and gaining 53 percent of the vote. O'Malley jumped into the race June 22, two weeks before the July filing deadline. He rode to primary victory on a pledge to reduce crime, shut down open-air drug dealing in the city and "change and reform" city government.

Although sometimes criticized as a "one-issue" candidate, O'Malley has stuck with the theme throughout the general election campaign.

The election winner will succeed Schmoke, who will step down next month to take a job with a Washington, D.C., law firm. Because O'Malley and Tufaro are white, Baltimore will join other predominantly African-American cities across the nation, such as Gary, Ind., and Oakland, Calif., in electing a white mayor.

Council races watched

Also being heavily watched are two Baltimore City Council races in the city's south side. Republicans Joe Brown in Southwest Baltimore and Robert N. Santoni in Southeast Baltimore are making serious challenges to become the first GOP council members in 60 years.

City voters will be asked to answer a dozen referendum questions on city loans and whether to have the next city election coincide with the presidential election in 2004.

Baltimore elections director Barbara E. Jackson is predicting a voter turnout of 25 percent to 27 percent citywide today, significantly lower than the 42 percent of voters who turned out for the September primary.

Jackson noted that city general elections over the past 20 years have traditionally drawn less than primary elections. The average general election turnout since 1979 has been 31 percent.

'Pull that lever'

Yesterday, candidates joined WOLB-AM 1010 morning radio host and former state Sen. Larry Young in West Baltimore to remind rush-hour motorists to vote today. Many of the candidates said they were eager to see the end of the 10-month campaign.

"It seems like years," said Ken Harris, a Democrat making his first bid for elected office as a City Council candidate in the 3rd District.

East Baltimore City Council candidate and homeless advocate Bea Gaddy left the rally in a truck with a speaker on the roof, yelling into the hand-held microphone.

"Don't forget, tell your uncles and tell your cousins," Gaddy said. "Please pull that lever tomorrow."

Polling places

Polls for today's general election in Baltimore are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. City schools, which serve as polling places, will be closed today.

If you have questions or complaints about the elections process, call the city elections board at 410-396-5550

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