Nine battle on for seats

Non-Democratic hopefuls focus on issues as primary euphoria fades

September 24, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

The political hangover from this month's Democratic primary is beginning to lift at City Hall - and elected officials are getting back to business - but for a handful candidates, the campaign season is still in full swing.

Seven Republicans and two Green Party candidates are running in the Nov. 6 general election. Mounting campaigns in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic, their first battle is trying to convince Baltimore voters that there are legitimate political parties in town whose names don't begin with the letter D.

"I don't think the people of Baltimore are concerned about Republican or Democrat or black or white. I think what they're mostly concerned about is having their issues addressed," said Elbert R. Henderson, a Republican who is making his second run for mayor.

Henderson, a 57-year-old former state corrections official who works for the District of Columbia's corrections department, said he intends to focus his campaign on crime, education and affordable housing. He said he believes the city government could do more, for instance, to encourage the rehab of its 40,000 vacant properties.

About 84,000 voters cast a ballot in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary election. Mayor Sheila Dixon, who has served in the position on an interim basis since Martin O'Malley became governor in January, beat six candidates seeking to unseat her. In the council president's race, Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake defeated community activist Michael Sarbanes.

Many of the non-Democratic candidates running for mayor, City Council president and individual seats on the council have agendas just as robust as some of their counterparts who competed in the primary. The problem, however, is getting voters to listen.

The city's last Republican mayor was Theodore R. McKeldin, who won the election in 1963 after serving previously as both mayor and governor. The last Republican elected to the council was Daniel Ellison - in 1939.

Henderson, who ran in 2004, received 12 percent of the vote against then-Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Party enrollment figures from the Maryland State Board of Elections show that about 79 percent of city voters - 263,334 out of 333,736 - are Democrats. Less than 10 percent are Republican, and the Libertarians, Greens and "others" together make up less than 1 percent of registered voters.

There has been a growing a number of voters who don't align themselves with a particular party. At the end of August about 10.5 percent of registered voters in the city were unaffiliated, up from 8 percent in 2003. But the number of unaffiliated voters, 35,322, is still small and it is not clear whether the non-Democratic candidates can reach them.

But they are trying.

"We discuss the same issues every election cycle, and for the most part Baltimore has the same problems every election cycle except that they get worse," said Maria Allwine, a Green candidate for City Council president. "When you have one-party power, you have no check-and-balance on that party."

Allwine, 54, a legal secretary, was actively campaigning during the primary season and, when she was allowed to join in, participated in several candidates forums.

Among other things, Allwine supports creating a WPA-style jobs program - poverty and the lack of jobs underlies broader problems with education and crime, she said. She argues that the city should find ways to encourage businesses to locate or remain in the city.

Recent campaign finance reports show that Henderson and Allwine have raised very little money. As of late August, Allwine had about $92 in her campaign account. Henderson, whose most recent report was not available for inspection, had no money in his account as of early August.

By comparison, Dixon had more than $400,000 in her account as of last August.

Baltimore is not alone in its predilection for electing Democrats. Neither Chicago nor Boston has elected a Republican mayor since the 1920s. But from 1993 to 2001, the mayors of the nation's two largest cities were Republican: Rudolph W. Giuliani in New York and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles.

In 1999, developer David F. Tufaro ran a spirited Republican campaign for mayor against O'Malley but received fewer than 10,000 votes. Many of the candidates running against Democrats acknowledge that they face an uphill fight, but argue they are campaigning on principle.

"Somebody has to try," said Mark Newgent, a Republican who is challenging Mary Pat Clarke for a seat on the council in the 14th District.

Newgent, 33, a managing editor of a public health journal, said he holds no ill will toward Clarke. But he said the city is not doing enough to address the property tax rate, which is significantly higher than any other jurisdiction in the state, and he said Baltimore should be offering more school choice.

"I hold no illusions about the race. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion," he said. "But I'm fed up with the way the city is run."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

November's ballot

is another election this year in Baltimore -- technically. Nine candidates will be on the ballot Nov. 6 attempting to knock off a Democrat. Seven are Republicans and two are members of the Green Party.

Mayor

Elbert R. Henderson (R) Sheila Dixon (D)

City Council President

Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake (D) Maria Allwine (G)

1st City Council District

James B. Kraft (D) Glenn L. Werner Jr. (R)

2nd City Council District

Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. (D) Brian H. Davis (R)

3rd City Council District

Robert W. Curran (D) Bill Barry (G)

8th City Council District

Helen L. Holton (D) Sean D. Cummings (R)

9th City Council District

Agnes Welch (D) Michael John Bradley (R)

10th City Council District

Edward L. Reisinger (D) Duane Shelton (R)

14th City Council District

Mary Pat Clarke (D) Mark Newgent (R) [Source: Maryland State Board of Elections]

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