O'Malley backs Sen. Hoffman over Gladden

In radio ads, mayor fails to endorse Del. McIntosh

Politically risky stances

He offers no endorsement in state's attorney's race

Election 2002

September 05, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley has waded into three of the city's hottest Democratic primaries with financial contributions and politically risky endorsements.

In fliers heading for Baltimore mailboxes less than a week before Tuesday's primary, O'Malley is backing state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman in the redrawn 41st District over challenger Lisa A. Gladden, a delegate.

In radio ads that began yesterday, he endorses Dels. Michael V. Dobson, Ann Marie Doory and Kenneth C. Montague Jr. in the 43rd over Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, the House of Delegates majority leader.

O'Malley also is supporting Del. Verna L. Jones in her bid to unseat Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV in the 44th.

His financial help includes $1,000 each to Dobson and Montague. He said he also has contributed to Jones, and Doory said she has received money, too, but it's not clear how much in either case.

That kind of politicking might be expected from an outspoken mayor like O'Malley, particularly in a year when he considered running for governor.

But some of those choices put O'Malley in an awkward position with prominent African-American leaders who helped him win election in 1999. And some are politically sticky because redistricting has pitted incumbents against each other.

Yesterday, O'Malley expressed some discomfort over picking sides.

"It's a very awkward and difficult year for all of us, and unfortunately there are only so many seats left in the city," O'Malley said. "You've got to be loyal to people who have helped you and also try to do what's best for the city as we lose influence in Annapolis because of redistricting."

While the candidates hope a thumbs-up from the mayor will help them win votes, O'Malley seemed to play down the significance of his endorsements, stressing that the decision belongs to average citizens.

In the 41st, for example, O'Malley said he supports Hoffman because she is chairwoman of the influential Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. But O'Malley also praised Gladden, whom he has supported in the past.

"That decision is up to the families of the 41st District, to decide [between] the two fine candidates," he said.

Gladden could not be reached for comment.

O'Malley has been reticent in the race for state's attorney, even though he has been highly critical of the incumbent and considers the position critical to his top priority: reducing crime. O'Malley has not endorsed anyone in the race and said he "probably" won't. Incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy faces challengers Anton J.S. Keating and Lisa Joi Stancil.

Some political observers speculate that racial politics are keeping O'Malley on the sidelines in that contest, even though in the 41st he supports Hoffman, who is white, over Gladden, who is black.

`Politically astute'

Of the two challengers in the state's attorney's race, Keating is a veteran attorney who has tried more than 100 murder cases while Stancil has never taken a case before a jury, notes Byron L. Warnken, a law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

But it would be difficult for O'Malley to endorse Keating, Warnken said, because he -- like the mayor and his police chief -- is white. Jessamy and Stancil are black.

"I think he'd certainly be politically astute if not all of the people who go get bad guys in a city that's majority African-American are white guys," Warnken said.

O'Malley responded to the issue with what sounded like a backhanded endorsement of Jessamy.

"People should not jump to the conclusion that things couldn't get worse" under Keating or Stancil, O'Malley said.

No one should assume that he wants her ousted just because they've been at odds over some highly publicized criminal cases, O'Malley said.

"At the end of the day, we've actually accomplished some very positive things over these past few years," he said. "The reduction of crime can't happen with the police alone. There had to be a lot of hard work by the state's attorney's office."

Rawlings for Gladden

Backing Hoffman is especially tricky for the mayor because Gladden is supported by Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who was a key O'Malley supporter early in his mayoral campaign.

Rawlings, who received a $6,000 contribution from O'Malley's funds last month, said the mayor's decision has not caused a rift between them.

"I supported the mayor because I thought he was the best mayor for Baltimore City," Rawlings said. "I didn't support him because I thought he could pick the best representative for the 41st District."

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