"The city has been driven into the ground for well over 40 years by the Democratic dinosaurs that run the city," said Gaztanaga, 62, a security guard from Cedonia, who has also run for Congress and lieutenant governor.

"A lot of people don't even know there's other people running other than the usual suspects that slide right in. I've always known what I'm up against. To me, it's just a pleasure to be able to enlighten the people. You have an alternative," he said.

Alfred V. Griffin III, who won the two-way Republican primary for mayor, hasn't forged much of a fight against Rawlings-Blake. Griffin, 38 — who runs a non-profit from his Waverly home where he said he lives with wife and two young children, his mother, and an adult brother and sister — did not return phone messages last week about his campaign.

Days after his primary victory, some of Griffin's neighbors were unaware he was running for mayor.

"Now that I know he's running, I'm going to have to talk to him and find out about his plans," said Bill Dermota, 47, a contractor who said he's a registered Republican.

Griffin said in an interview then that he was running with an eye toward fixing long-standing problems in city schools. While he didn't raise any campaign cash, according to online records, he said he relied on a few friends to volunteer.

"I made phone calls and mailed letters," said Griffin. "I guess it's old school campaigning — knocking on doors."

Adam Van Bavel, a 32-year-old Pigtown resident who has worked in development for nonprofits, is registered as an Independent, which Maryland recognized as a party until last year. Because the party has lost its status, Van Bavel had to gather at least 2,500 signatures for his name to appear on the ballot.

After months of campaigning, he fell about 300 signatures short. Now, Van Bavel is running as a write-in candidate against Council Vice President Edward Reisinger for the 10th District seat.

Van Bavel believes the city should more aggressively advertise incentives for homebuyers. He thinks the city's repeated budget struggles — officials last week projected a $52 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year — could be avoided with better accounting.

"I don't think you really need cuts if you have a system that's managed properly," he said.

Van Bavel, once a Democrat, acknowledged that he would have a better chance of winning if he switched back to the dominant party. But he said he believed that the one-party system had weakened the city.

"They're either representing themselves or special interests, they're not fully representing the people who live in their districts," he said. "I believe in people, not parties."




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