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Cosby stumps for Rolley in Baltimore

Comedian Bill Cosby joked with seniors, marched through Mondawmin Mall and dropped by Northeast Baltimore homes Wednesday to stump for mayoral candidate Otis Rolley.

"So how many of you know anything about this young man?" Cosby asked a crowd of about two dozen gathered in meeting room at St. James Place apartments.

Cosby braved Wednesday's heavy rains to campaign for Rolley less than a week before the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. At a news conference before a Rolley rally at Coppin State University, Cosby said he was impressed with Rolley.

"This is a young man who … believes in family. I know he loves this city," Cosby said. "He's straightforward and he's honest. He wants to see children educated better. He wants to see communities come together."

Cosby, who grew up in Philadelphia, said he got a kick out out of canvassing with Rolley in Northeast Baltimore's Loch Raven neighborhood.

"I stayed behind because I'm not used to knocking on people's doors," he said. But when he did walk in homes, Cosby said, he had some "interesting" conversations.

One woman in her 70s, "started to talk to both of us like she was married to us," Cosby said.

At the senior apartment complex, Cosby drew laughs by removing the shoe of a puzzled-looking toddler and pretending he was married to the girl's grandmother.

"We hope you will make better schools for our child," he told Rolley, then turned to the woman next to him. "Am I right, Mother?"

Rolley, who has mounted an aggressive campaign against incumbent Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, fielded questions on property taxes, policing and vacant properties.

Some residents said Cosby's support had persuaded them to support Rolley.

"He must be a pretty good candidate if Bill Cosby is coming out for him," said Larry Inman, 64, a retired forklift operator. "I know he's not going to stand up for just anyone."

William White, 58, a retired mail carrier, said he had been a fan since the days of "I Spy," Cosby's 1960s television show, and was "exhilarated" to meet him.

He brought a pencil sketch he had drawn of Cosby that captured the comedian's mischievous eyes.

White said he was impressed by Rolley's plan to eliminate vacant houses, but said he had not yet decided for whom to vote.

Wednesday marked Cosby's second visit to Baltimore to campaign for Rolley. A former spokesman for Rolley's campaign connected him with the comedian.

As a national entertainment figure, Cosby is an unusual endorser in the race. Rawlings-Blake has received endorsements from union groups and state politicians, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. Among supporters of state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh is Scott Donahoo, a one-time political aspirant and former owner of a chain of car dealerships.

When asked if he would return to Baltimore more often if Rolley were to win, Cosby shook his head.

"Mrs. Cosby is not happy," he said. "My wife wants me home."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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