Stuck at a long red light on his way to a Christmas party eight years ago, City Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. started stewing over a political problem and solved it before he stepped on the gas.
A dozen people were vying to fill a vacant seat in D'Adamo's council district, none appealing to him.
But he had to back someone for the post.
As his car idled at Hamilton Avenue and Harford Road, D'Adamo suddenly thought of a community activist he knew he would see at the party: Lois A. Garey.
He recruited her and the two became such close council colleagues that they joined forces through two elections.
But not this time.
The longtime 1st District teammates have parted ways now that redistricting -- which will shrink the council from six three-member districts to 14 single-member districts -- has pitted them against each other in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.
"When you work with someone for eight years and you hand-picked them for that seat, it's awkward," D'Adamo said.
"A lot of people don't understand that you can only vote for one," Garey said. "This is not what Councilman D'Adamo or I would have wanted."
Five other candidates are running in the primary for the newly created 2nd District, which covers the northeast corner of the city.
One candidate, Will Bauer of Claremont Street, is on the Republican ballot.
One Democratic challenger in particular is expected to pose a threat to the two incumbents, thanks in part to prominent political support and a shift in the district's racial makeup.
Cheryl D. Glenn has state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and demographics on her side.
The old 1st District was 61 percent white and included gentrified neighborhoods such as Canton, Butchers Hill, Fells Point, Otterbein and Federal Hill.
The affluent waterfront was cut out of the newly created 2nd, along with some traditionally working-class areas such as Little Italy.
Remaining are Frankford, Waltherson, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, the Pulaski industrial area -- and a constituency that is 51 percent black.
D'Adamo and Garey, who are white, say the demographic shift would not affect their ability to attract voters. But Glenn, who is black and has twice been elected president of the 5,000-member City Union of Baltimore, says it is time for a change.
McFadden and the East Side Democratic Organization are giving her their "full and total support," the senator said. He declined to elaborate.
"I have a first-class, professionally run campaign," Glenn said. "I'm being well-received. I'm not a stranger."
Glenn, 52, lives in Gardenville. She most recently worked as a field representative and lobbyist for the Baltimore Teachers Union, but said she is on leave from that position because of an on-the-job accident. She said her top priority as a councilwoman would be improving city schools.
Another challenger is David A. Lessner, 40, who moved from Baltimore County to Greektown three years ago. He said he would use a council seat to promote urban homesteading, reviving the 1970s dollar-house program that helped reclaim neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Otterbein and Barre Circle.
"Anything to get people to buy a house in the city," he said. "It establishes pride and the city needs pride. Pride is going out that door and picking up that piece of trash in the street."
Lessner said he is a fiscal conservative and social liberal. He ran unsuccessfully for an 8th District House of Delegates seat in 1994 and 1998, but said most of his political training has been on the job -- as a bartender.
"For me, it's a pretty logical step," he said. "For 16 years, my job has been serving people, listening to their problems, relating to their problems. This way I have the power of the city government behind me. I can now work to solve their problems."
Other candidates in the race are Phillip A. Brown Jr. of Bowleys Lane; Florentina Pantalunan of Belair Road; and Austin O. Oparanma, who used a post office box for an address on forms filed with the board of elections. Those candidates could not be reached for comment.
D'Adamo, 45, grew up in the district and until recently worked with his father at the family's bargain retail store, Shocket's.
After the store closed in January, D'Adamo -- the lone member of the all-Democrat council to support Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s successful bid for governor -- took a job as community liaison for the state police.
High on his wish list for the city are more police foot patrols and more of the so-called hokey men who sweep streets with wheeled trash bins in tow. But as chairman of the council's budget committee, D'Adamo called those improvements unlikely.
"Right now the city's strapped," he said. "I think everybody's got to realize that. We've been running the government on a shoestring."
Garey, 56, has lived in the area for 30 years and before joining the council headed the HARBEL Community Organization, working with the Harford-Belair roads community groups, business associations, churches, PTAs and hospitals that make up the umbrella group.
She is chairwoman of the council's land-use committee and said she would like to continue the process of revising the zoning code if re-elected.
"If we're going to modernize the zoning code, I'd like to be part of that," she said.