2 strongest Republican council campaigns fail

Santoni, Brown fall short of overcoming voters' party loyalty

November 03, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Republicans Robert N. Santoni Sr. and Joseph Brown Jr. were falling far short in early returns last night in their bids to become the first members of the GOP elected to the Baltimore City Council in 60 years.

Santoni, president of a popular local grocery store founded by his father, was running a distant fourth behind three Democratic incumbents in Southeast Baltimore's 1st Councilmanic District.

Brown, a bank manager active in the federal empowerment zone urban revitalization effort, was far behind three Democratic incumbents in the Southwest 6th District.

City voters elect three council members from each of six districts, to be led by a council president chosen at large.

In the 1st, with almost 52 percent of the precincts reporting at 1: 30 a.m., Santoni had 13percent of the vote, behind Lois Garey with 24 percent, and John L. Cain and Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., each with 28 percent.

In the 6th, with 50 percent of the precincts reporting, Brown had 12 percent of the vote, behind Edward L. Reisinger with 26 percent, Norman A. Handy Sr. with 26 percent, and Melvin L. Stukes with 28 percent.

Democratic nominees in the city's other four councilmanic districts -- including eight incumbents and four newcomers -- won easily over nominal opposition.

Santoni appeared before GOP supporters at the Normandy Room in East Baltimore shortly before 11 p.m.

"If the numbers do not work out right, I will be working even harder because I know what has to be done," he said.

The last Republican elected to the City Council was Daniel Ellison, who was elected in 1939 from the 4th District and left office three years later to make a successful run for the U.S. Congress.

Santoni and Brown were among 14 Republicans running for the 18 council seats, along with one Libertarian candidate. But they were given the best -- indeed, the only -- chance of success by political observers of both parties because of their high name recognition and well-financed, well-organized campaigns.

In Washington Village, Mary Huster, 75, a lifelong Democrat, said she crossed party lines for the first time to vote for Brown.

"There's just something about him I like," said Huster.

But even the Republican hopefuls faced a tough battle, given the overwhelming Democratic registration in the city and the strong coattails of Democratic mayoral nominee Martin O'Malley. O'Malley's green-and-white campaign signs were omnipresent in each of the six councilmanic districts, along with the names of the Democratic council nominees.

"I can't go with the Republican because I'm not a Republican," said Helen Thomas, 42, who cast her ballot in the 6th District.

"I really don't know much about [Brown]. I do know a little about the Democratic Party," said Mondel Richardson, 24, who also voted in the 6th.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Santoni had raised a total of $48,006, with half of that amount coming in the six-week period from Aug. 30 to Oct. 17. Brown raised $28,736. Those sums were comparable to those raised by their Democratic rivals.

Brown, 41, first ran for a council seat four years ago. He finished a distant fourth in that race, behind Stukes, Handy and Reisinger.

In addition to his work as a bank manager, Brown serves as the unpaid chairman of the Washington Village arm of the empowerment zone.

Santoni, 54, the president of Santoni's Market, has been active in economic development efforts in East Baltimore. He stressed during his campaign that he wanted the city to be run "as a business" -- though court records showed his business owed some $200,000 in unpaid state sales and withholding taxes.

In the city's other four councilmanic districts, the four new Democratic council members were homeless advocate Bea Gaddy in East Baltimore's 2nd District, attorney Lisa Stancil and motivational speaker Kenneth Harris in Northeast Baltimore's 3rd District, and public relations consultant Catherine E. Pugh from West Baltimore's 4th District.

Gaddy replaces retiring councilman Robert L. Douglass; Stancil and Harris fill seats vacated by O'Malley and Rita R. Church, who also is retiring. Pugh takes the place of Sheila Dixon, who was elected council president.

The other incumbents running for re-election were Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Paula Johnson Branch in the 2nd; Robert Curran in the 3rd; Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and Agnes B. Welch in the 4th; and Helen Holton, Stephanie Rawlings and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector in the 5th.

Sun staff writer Liz Bowie contributed to this article.

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