9 Democrats vying for Harris' District 4 seat

3 challenging Curran in the 3rd

Conradt facing Clarke in the 14th

September 04, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

What happens when a longtime city councilman doesn't run for re-election in his district? A lot of candidates jump into the race.

In Baltimore's 4th District race for City Council, nine Democrats are vying for the seat, which is being vacated after two terms by Kenneth N. Harris Sr. as he seeks the council presidency.

The council's 4th District runs approximately between Charles Street and Loch Raven Boulevard, a largely middle-class section of North Baltimore.

Many of the candidates say the city's uphill battle against crime propelled many of them into the race. But other problems, such as the condition of the public schools and the thousands of vacant rowhouses in the city, are also given as reasons for entering the contest.

It can be difficult to stand out in a crowded field, so the candidates say they have been crisscrossing the district - knocking on doors and meeting people - to get all-important face time with voters.

Some of the contenders have managed to differentiate themselves by raising relatively large amounts of money, at least by City Council standards.

Leading the pack in fundraising are Scherod Barnes, Ryan M. Coleman and Bill Henry.

Henry had raised more than $43,000 by the mid-August fundraising report - outpacing his closest competitor by more than $15,000, according to the state campaign finance database.

Henry, until recently, was director of commercial development at Patterson Park Community Development Corp., which has led the revitalization of the area near the park.

Henry, 39, lives in Radnor-Winston and ran unsuccessfully against Harris four years ago. He also has worked as a legislative aide for Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and as an assistant for her chief of staff. Henry also was chief of staff for former City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III.

"I've tried really hard to not make this campaign about Ken," Henry said, referring to the 4th District councilman. "One of the things that he was proudest of, was that if you called him, you'd get a call back in 24 hours. One of the things I want is to be is not just reacting to individual people's problems. I want to come up with creative ideas."

Barnes, a construction company sales manager and a longtime neighborhood activist in Loch Raven, where he has lived for 33 years, raised more than $25,000 in the last reporting period.

Barnes, 59, a member of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee, said he has conducted a "community listening tour" for the past four months to connect with voters.

"I've been on the ground, in the trenches of Northeast Baltimore for over 30 years, trying to keep Northeast Baltimore a good place to live," Barnes said.

Coleman, 31, lives in New Northwood and works at Strayer University. He has worked in the past for Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and reports raising $17,950.

"Living in Northwood and being from Baltimore and loving Baltimore, I wanted to jump in and do something about it. I really learned a lot from Dutch. ... And I thought I had something to offer. I wanted to get in there and make some changes."

Christopher Jack Hill, 26, lives in Loch Raven and is a marketing director for a city restaurant. He also has been a freelance journalist, writing articles for The Sun and the Afro-American.

Hill, who is also a minister at Bethel AME Church, has raised $243. "I'm very careful with our money," Hill said. "Our money goes to reaching the people. There is no paid personnel; this is truly a grass-roots campaign.

He said several prominent politicians and advisers - former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Matthew A. Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University - are "helping out, giving free advice."

Reba Hawkins, 38, of Mid-Govans, is a mortgage loan consultant and recently was executive director of the Govanstowne Business Association. She has testified in Annapolis for legislation for a living wage, she said, and would like to see tax breaks for local businesses.

"I'd like to see some tax breaks and tax credits for some of the small mom-and-pop shops that are really the hub of many neighborhoods."

Hawkins said former Councilwoman Bea Gaddy is the inspiration for the kind of councilwoman she would be. "Bea Gaddy was a person who was selfless, and I feel that [is] the true spirit of a councilperson," Hawkins said. "You have to work and be selfless and know that you're working for the good of the people."

Monica L. Gaines, president of the Woodbourne-McCabe Community Association, said she has worked for more than three years with city officials to relinquish hold of 27 vacant properties in her district to allow for private development - a move she hopes would put a dent in the area's drug dealing.

"The vacant houses, that's drawing lot of crime," Gaines said. "The area has run down and has a whole bunch of vacant houses. If we could sell vacant houses, and clean it up ... it could clean up some of the crime."

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