Mitchell should stop bellyaching, start running

January 11, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

HERE'S A WILD idea: Maybe Clarence Mitchell IV should run for re-election. I know: It's not very imaginative, not very think-tanky. But there it is. C4 can just show us what he's got by taking on George Della for the state Senate seat in the new, psychedelically reconfigured and racially mixed 44th Legislative District.

Mitchell has been squawking about the realignment since the new maps of this strange district started circulating. He thinks our dull but slippery governor betrayed him and all other African-Americans in Baltimore by reshaping the 44th and forcing him to run against Della, the white guy from South Baltimore. The colors in the new 44th would be mixed. Instead of being overwhelmingly black, it would become 53 percent black and 47 percent white, and would include West Baltimore, Della's old haunts and a chunk of Dundalk.

It's very weird. But this was done because, over the last decade, the 44th District had a severe population drop in a city that had a severe population drop in a state that had significant overall growth. Redistricting is supposed to address these trends.

Mitchell, who knows all this, has more than griped about having to face re-election in a challenging circumstance. He's been threatening to crash his family's political heritage into a tree by leaving the Democratic Party for the Republicans. He's been making all sorts of outrageous accusations that we never heard, in all of his frequent oratories on Larry Young's radio show and the floor of the Senate, until the maps came out. The Democratic Party hasn't served minorities in this state, in this nation? It's the party that has turned back the clock on civil rights, affirmative action and social welfare? Gee, C4, here we were thinking just the opposite. I wish you had spoken up sooner.

But let's drop all that for a minute.

You're still a young man. And if you bite this bullet and get in the race against Della, you just might win.

Looking at this just in the terms of race, you have an advantage - 53 percent to 47 percent. In 1998, when you defeated John Jefferies in the 44th District primary, your margin of victory was just that - 53 to 47.

This time it'll be work - a lot of work. Most importantly, you'll have to register voters. You'll have to make a lot of phone calls and hustle a lot of campaign contributions. You'll have to work the crowd at Cross Street Market and spend some time in Dundalk. You'll have to knock on doors in new territory, like Cherry Hill. You'll have to show people that you're a leader, not just a bellyacher.

Tough. Maybe impossible. You got a better idea? Be a Republican? Right. File suit? Yeah, I suppose you could file suit. You might even have a case against the state.

But a campaign against Della sounds like a lot more fun.

So go for it, C4. Or get out of the way and let someone else have at it.

Baltimore's big night

Seeing Baltimore on Monday Night Football was a great thing, no doubt about it. (One of the highlights: an angry Brian Billick getting in the face of a foot-shorter-than-he elderly referee.) But the city wasn't exactly overexposed during the telecast.

The ABC producers and directors ordered the standard "bump shots" of the Inner Harbor, brief glimpses of the waterfront coming out of commercial breaks, and that was fine - up to a point. It seemed like the ABC cameras never moved from the Inner Harbor and that every bump shot was of the Harborplace promenade.

I'm not squawking. As I say, we should be happy the city got a few choice seconds of exposure on national television.

But I gotta tell ya: The World Wrestling Federation did a much nicer job. Three years ago, when the WWF taped Raw Is War at the Arena, its producers gave considerable air time to several locations - in the Inner Harbor, Mount Vernon and Fells Point - as their cameras followed a wrestler and a wrestler-doll on a "hot date" in Baltimore. These two got in a limousine at a downtown hotel and went club hopping, and along the way Raw viewers could have reached the conclusion that Baltimore actually has a night life.

Of course, Raw being soap opera for guys, a jealous lover/ wrestler showed up and the "hot date" turned into a wild barroom brawl in Fells Point. It was a beautiful moment. Monday Night Football had nothing like it. Next time, Brian Billick should just body slam the elderly referee or smack him with a chair.

The joys of jury duty

I hope the mayor of Baltimore enjoyed jury duty. Last time I had jury duty - it seems like only last summer, and it was - I reached for something to read. I found a newsletter about the courts, and inside was an earnest-sounding, civics-class essay about the importance of jury duty and how good the author had felt about taking part in it. The author was Katie Curran O'Malley, who now, of course, gets to decide guilt or innocence every day as a District Court judge. is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166, or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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