9 candidates compete for Mitchell seat

Cole leading rest of field in fundraising

11th district

September 01, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

If the old saying, "Money is the mother's milk of politics," is true, then William Cole appears to have a big advantage in the District 11 City Council race, where nine candidates are vying for the seat to be vacated in December by Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.

Mitchell, who has held the seat for 12 years, decided not to seek re-election because he's running in the Democratic mayoral primary election. District 11 includes Bolton Hill, Reservoir Hill, Otterbein, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and a number of West Baltimore neighborhoods.

Cole -- thanks to hefty fundraising, major endorsements and name recognition -- has emerged as the candidate to beat, according to political observers.

Campaign financial reports filed last month show that Cole, 34, has raised nearly $70,000 -- more than the combined total raised by the other eight candidates in the race.

Cole's name has a familiar ring to some district voters because he served as a delegate in the General Assembly from 1998 to 2002. And he has picked up endorsements from Gov. Martin O'Malley, U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and other state and local politicians.

Some of the other candidates have acknowledged that they're fighting an uphill battle against Cole.

"Bill Cole has the machine. He has big business, the establishment," said Nick Mosby, an electrical engineer and a candidate for the seat.

And Cole appears confident about his chances of winning.

"I've had a successful fundraising effort. I'm not at all ashamed of the fact that I've raised a lot of money. That shows I have support," Cole said. "If having a governor and congressman's support makes you part of the establishment, I accept that label. Particularly Cummings, for him to say that I'm most prepared to lead this district, I consider that a great honor and not a burden."

There are no Republicans running in District 11 in the Sept. 11 primary election. In addition to Cole and Mosby, the other Democratic candidates are: Fred Mason III, an architect; Adam S. Meister, an Internet entrepreneur; Brandon Thornton, a public defender, Karen Brown, a minister; Warren Zussman, business owner; and community activists Dana Owens and Rita Collins.

Cole's biggest challenge could come from Mason, who has raised more than $25,000 for his campaign, the second-highest total among the candidates.

Mason, 35, said he is focusing his platform on education, rebuilding neighborhoods and public safety. Mason said the city should devote a majority of each year's budget increases to maintaining school buildings, use city-owned property as a path to homeownership and put more police officers on the street for foot patrols.

Mason is also seeking to be the first openly gay man elected to the council.

"That's important for me in setting an example of what can be done. That you can be who you are and be successful," Mason said "It also adds a voice to elected service that has been missing."

Mason said he lives, works and worships in the district, where he is known for his involvement with the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council Housing Committee and volunteer work with AIDS Action and Rebuilding Together.

"I've also worked in the federal government, interned with Kweisi Mfume and Paul Sarbanes, and worked with the state budget dealing with capital improvement and construction. That range is a major asset to the district," Mason said.

Mosby, 28, lives in Reservoir Hill and is a first-time office-seeker. His campaign focuses on reducing crime and rehabilitating the thousands of vacant homes in the city. He has caught the attention of political observers and other candidates, including Cole, who say he lacks name recognition, but is mounting a vigorous grass-roots campaign.

Mosby said he would like to see residents patrolling the streets and the formation of a citywide gang unit. Mosby said he will propose the creation of a program that would teach ex-offenders how to fix some of the city's dilapidated houses, which could then be sold back to the offenders.

Mosby also said he will push for quarterly audits of all city agencies. "We would see where the money is going and hold people accountable," said Mosby.

Meister, 30, has been running through the streets that make up the district and talking up his platform, which includes a focus on cleaner neighborhoods and the environment. Meister said he runs at least 5 miles a day.

Meister, who operates an Internet company that provides marketing research for software companies, started the Buy a Block program in Reservoir Hill, where a loose collective of 13 people bought houses in a concentrated area in the name of urban redevelopment.

"It was just an idea. I scribbled it down, and it's become a reality. I don't think any of the other candidates can say, `Come to this point and see what I've done,'" Meister said.

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