On election day, business as usual

Schaefer

Maryland Votes 2006 -- The Primary Election

September 13, 2006|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,Sun Reporter

William Donald Schaefer traditionally begins an election day at a corner diner in the heart of Little Italy, sitting down to order eggs and, ideally, a campaign over easy.

As polls opened yesterday and voters began weighing in on what many called the race of the comptroller's career, Schaefer pulled up his usual chair at Iggy's, ordered his usual mug of tea and hoped to ease into a day capped by his usual big win.

If the unusually close contest was weighing heavily on his mind, Schaefer kept it to himself.

"How do I feel?" he impatiently responded to a questioner. "The way I always feel at election time."

For guy who's triumphed in every political battle he's waged in the past 50 years - winning terms as governor and Baltimore mayor - that could pass for optimism.

Schaefer, 84, sauntered into the restaurant to a round of applause from his evergreen supporters, some of whom had been waiting more than an hour for him.

The comptroller, who typically casts the first vote at his Fells Point precinct before heading to breakfast, was running late. The early-bird voters at the Lemko House were surprised, and a little disappointed, that Schaefer abandoned at least that tradition this year.

Tiny Iggy's, with its uncomplicated menu, threw open its arms for Schaefer - not only with a special victory omelette, but with waitresses wearing his T-shirts.

In the middle of the room, they had pushed together tables into a long rectangle. Schaefer took a center seat, and proceeded to hold court for many minutes.

Fred Broccolino, who lives in Northeast Baltimore, was one of about a dozen people who dropped by to pay their respects.

Though he knew his man was having a hard time - and acknowledged that this race might be the one that does Schaefer in - Broccolino's gut told him Willy Don would pull it out.

"It's going to be tight," said Broccolino, who said his dad went to law school with Schaefer. "But in the end I think he's gonna win."

Schaefer declined to predict an outcome as he waited outside Iggy's for a car to take him to vote.

"I never predict," he said.

But, he added, win or lose, this campaign has not been fun.

"It's one of the meanest campaigns I've ever been in in my life," he said. "The meanness and the innuendos - it's not like it used to be. They ain't nice anymore."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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