Together, the two Republicans managed 1,692 votes in the primary. Rawlings-Blake attracted more than 38,000 on her own; the Democratic candidates combined for more than 72,000.

Justin D. Ready, the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said it can be "tough" to be a Republican in Charm City, but he urged Baltimore's conservatives to send a message in November.

"There are folks who are tired of the constant bad news that comes out of Baltimore. The past corruption. The fact that nothing ever seems to change," said Ready, who is also a state delegate from Carroll County.

"We're encouraging our people to get out and have that conversation," Ready said.

The City Council district with the most Republicans — the 1st, which includes the waterfront neighborhoods of Canton and Fells Point — did not draw a GOP challenger this year.

In the district with the second-most Republicans — the 11th, which includes downtown and Federal Hill — Democratic Councilman William H. Cole IV will face Duane Shelton, the head of the Baltimore City Republican Party.

"We are going to be outspent," Shelton said. "It is time for us to out-hustle."

Shelton aims to elect at least one Republican to the City Council this year. "We want to crack this thing open," Shelton said. "We want to get somebody elected somewhere in Baltimore."

He said he suspects that many of the city's Democrats are closeted Republicans — voters who mark themselves as a "D" to have voice in the primary.

Persuading these voters to show their true colors in the general election will require changing the perception that a Republican can't win in Charm City, he said.

"The goal is to convince people it can be done," Shelton said.

Ready said "having a Republican or two on the City Council would be a very good thing for the city. Having an exchange of ideas and some new ideas."

But with the primary over, the campaigns are likely to be less visible in the weeks before the general election. As former Mayor Sheila Dixon put it, Democrats will ensure that there "is a presence out there" to remind voters to go to the polls in November. But, she said, "you do very little" actual campaigning from here on out."

"You don't put a lot of effort behind it," Dixon said. "The primary is the key election here."

She said she could not remember the name of the Republican she defeated in 2007.

What does the lopsided competition mean for turnout?

If history is any guide, much of the voting public will stay home. In 2007, the general election drew about half as many voters than the primary.

Turnout last week was historically abysmal, which suggests that the numbers in November could be still lower.

Nevertheless, the city has budgeted about $2 million to staff five early-voting centers for six days in the end of October and early November. The local elections board will operate 290 polling locations on Election Day.

After just 23 percent of registered voters participated in the primary, city elections director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. predicted a general election turnout of 12 percent. He said he's examining ways to reduce the number of staff needed on Election Day to the "bare minimum."

Some have proposed improving turnout by aligning the city's election cycle with those of the federal and state governments. At present, the mayor and city council are elected odd-numbered years; the president, governor and federal and state lawmakers are elected in even-numbered years.

But making such a change hasn't been popular here among elected leaders. One reason: It erases an advantage ambitious city politicians have over colleagues in other parts of the state. Baltimore elected officials — including two of the state's past four governors — have taken advantage of the staggered election cycle to pursue higher office without having to give up their city positions.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nicole Fuller contributed to this report.

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