With a mere handful of candidates entering city races, Baltimore's primary election ballot took its final shape after last night's candidacy deadline came and went without surprises.

Though no major names appeared for the top citywide offices - mayor, comptroller and City Council president - a steady stream of candidates jumped into the races for the 14 City Council seats that are also up for election this fall.

And amid the last-minute political wrangling, Del. Jill P. Carter, the fiery Northwest Baltimore lawmaker and daughter of civil rights leader Walter P. Carter, formally announced her candidacy for mayor - vowing to focus much of her attention on the city's climbing homicide count and failing schools.

Carter, in her second term in the General Assembly, has become one of the most vocal critics of Gov. Martin O'Malley. During her announcement yesterday, she repeatedly blamed the city's ills on what she called the failed leadership of the past. She is running to unseat the current mayor, Sheila Dixon.

In addition to Dixon and Carter, other mayoral candidates who filed by last night included: Phillip A. Brown Jr., schools administrator Andrey Bundley, Baltimore Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway, socialist A. Robert Kaufman, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and real estate and equity firm manager Mike Schaefer.

The only new mayoral candidate to appear last night was a Republican, Elbert R. Henderson, who did not return a phone call seeking comment. He lost in the 2004 mayoral general election to then-Mayor O'Malley.

The Democratic and Republican primary elections will take place Sept. 11.

Carter, who has criticized City Hall in recent months for what she has called overzealous policing, has also called for a special session of the General Assembly to deal with BGE's electricity rate increase.

Carter vowed that, if elected, she would replace the entire police command staff, create an advisory panel of former commissioners and dedicate 20 percent of the city's general fund budget to education. In this year's budget, about 16 percent of general fund dollars went toward school operations. "If we had leadership in this city, we would have already changed police commissioners," said Carter, a 44-year-old Hunting Ridge resident. "We will never in all honesty change the politics of this city until we change those people that have fostered these wrong policies. Our Police Department can't clean up the streets of Baltimore until we clean up the Police Department."

Anthony McCarthy, a Dixon spokesman, responded: "Mayor Dixon welcomes a very vigorous and thoughtful debate about leadership in the city of Baltimore, and certainly Delegate Carter will make this race very interesting."

With the passing of last night's filing deadline, it turns out City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, a Democrat, will be unopposed in her re-election effort. Pratt, who has served as comptroller since 1995, originally expressed an interest in running for mayor but ultimately decided against the challenge.

Activist and former attorney Leonard J. Kerpelman had announced plans to take on Pratt in the Democratic primary, but city election documents showed last night that he had not filed.

The only member of the City Council who will run unopposed is Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, a Democrat who represents Northwest Baltimore in the 5th District. In all, more than 60 people filed for the 14 seats on the council - including about a dozen who entered the race yesterday.

There was little of the drama seen in past years at the City Board of Elections office yesterday evening.

City Council Vice President Robert W. Curran held court in one chair. Fellow Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. ventured in toward the deadline, saying it was the first time he had witnessed the spectacle - and he wasn't particularly impressed. Several election officials said it was one of the slowest filing deadlines in recent memory.

Mayoral candidate Schaefer - who had announced his candidacy late in June but who officially filed yesterday - was on hand. Schaefer, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate last year, made no bones about his last name - and its resemblance to one William Donald Schaefer. The two men are not related.

"The name Schaefer is just a starter," he said, adding that he intends to roll out a series of white papers detailing his platform over the next few months. "It enables a man of average means such as myself to start with a half-a-million dollar bankroll in the form of name recognition."

Schaefer brought along newspaper clippings from previous races and chatted with fellow mayoral candidate Conaway, the only other mayoral candidate present. The last candidate to walk through the doors shortly before 9 p.m. was Terry McCready.

"Elvis!" shouted Curran, explaining that McCready did Elvis impersonations and sang Elvis songs at karaoke. McCready responded in an Elvis voice. A retired Department of Public Works employee, McCready filed to run for the 1st District against City Councilman James B. Kraft.

Meanwhile, six candidates and a representative for Dixon addressed a small crowd gathered at the New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore last night.

Mitchell, Carter, Kaufman and Bundley spoke to the group, which was gathered in a small chapel. Of the City Council president candidates, Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and neighborhood advocate Michael Sarbanes spoke.

No new candidates filed for City Council president yesterday.

john.fritze@baltsun.com sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com