Fifteen candidates compete in Baltimore's mayoral primary
By Bruce Morton/CNN
August 26, 1999
Web posted at: 6:10 p.m. EDT (2210 GMT)
BALTIMORE, Maryland -- The Inner Harbor still beckons tourists, downtown looks prosperous from a distance, but Baltimore, as it prepares to elect a new mayor on September 14, is a troubled city.
"Right now we have 9 percent unemployment, which is double the national average; we have 300 murders a year, fourth highest in the country; we have schools that were just taken over by the state; and property taxes two times higher than anywhere else in Maryland," Gerard Shields, a city reporter for the Baltimore Sun explained.
Everyone's favorite savior, NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, chose not to run. One fringe candidate was arrested on a burglary warrant after appearing on TV. There are 15 Democrats in the primary.
"People don't feel it's a strong field because many of these people that are running have been council members, haven't had real high elected positions," Shields said.
City council member Martin O'Malley, 36, a white candidate in a majority black city, is one of three Democrats who has a shot at winning the primary. In Baltimore, the Democratic primary is the election.
"You can't get the guys off the corners and tell them to stop dealing drugs if you can't tell your police to stop shooting people and being brutal. It's about fairness," O'Malley said at one campaign at a city market.
Crime is the biggest issue in this election.
"While every other city in America is reducing violent crime, increasing and growing population, Baltimore's violent crime has been sticking stubbornly high," O'Malley argued.
City Council President Lawrence Bell, 36, another possible winner has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and city employees' unions.
"People ultimately are going to focus on this election in the last two and a half weeks and they're going to say, 'Lawrence Bell is far and away the most qualified, the only candidate who's passed more legislation to fight crime than anyone else in the last 30 years' and I'm very proud of that record," Bell cass
Bell may have been hurt when his supporters disrupted an O'Malley campaign appearance.
The third possible winner, Carl Stokes, 49, served on the City Council and the School Board and has been endorsed by the Baltimore Sun and the AfroAmerican. He promises leadership and vision.
"My style will be management by being on the street, management by walking around. Third persons won't have to tell me what's going on in our city. I'll hear it, I'll see it, I'll touch it myself," Stokes said.
Race is one issue and hate letters have appeared. Is it the only issue? The candidates say 'no.'
"Crime is the issue that most Baltimoreans are most concerned about," Bell said.
"It's really about schools and education. It really is about being America's safest city. I think that race is always bubbling somewhere and sometimes it does surface, but I don't think that the majority of the voters are going to pick a mayor or a candidate based solely on race," Stokes argued.
"We all have the same issues ... cut crime, improve schools and move the city forward. So I don't believe it's about race. I think race is unavoidable in America but it's not insurmountable," O'Malley said.
Polls show Bell, once the leader, in third place, Stokes and O'Malley in a statistical dead heat.