"I had seen his name, but I didn't know about her history," she said. She said Conaway will get her vote on Nov. 8.

Mosby, a Verizon engineer, denied that his campaign was propelled by Rawlings-Blake's political operation.

"My campaign started in my living room with a decision my wife and I made," he said.

Mosby said he scored prominent endorsements after he demonstrated he could win.

"We campaigned our butts off," he said. "We went right to the voter, but [Conaway] decided not to."

Rawlings-Blake's campaign manager said the mayor supported Mosby because they shared similar ideals.

"The truth is the mayor and Nick Mosby, like many others on the council, share a vision to grow Baltimore by improving public safety and schools," campaign manager Travis Tazelaar said in a statement.

The 7th District includes neighborhoods that ring Druid Hill Park and stretches across central West Baltimore, areas that are economically mixed.

Johnson and Montgomery's neighborhood, near the intersection of Fulton and Presstman Streets, is emblematic of the district. Both women reside in tidy, well-maintained rowhomes, although nearby houses are vacant and badly dilapidated.

Young men linger on a street corner, their hands shoved into their pockets. Two gray-haired men play chess under a makeshift white tent.

Conaway, who is a Baltimore City Public Schools administrator and mother of two, says she is particularly attuned to the needs of the most vulnerable.

In her first term, she passed legislation requiring the city to turn off the water in vacant houses to prevent pipes from bursting and leaking into neighboring homes. In chairing marathon budget hearings, Conaway frequently pushed for more information on programs that benefit children and the elderly.

She has been closely allied with Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and often sides with the council's more liberal members, including Mary Pat Clarke, Bill Henry and Carl Stokes.

One of the projects on which Conaway worked most assiduously in the past year, the 25th Street Station in Remington, was excised from the newly drawn district. The project, which is to include a Walmart shopping center, came under fire from residents who opposed the retail behemoth.

Conaway helped to facilitate discussions between the developers and community groups and persuaded the developer to hold a job fair to seek workers from the district.

But Conaway captured the most media attention in recent months over the controversy surrounding her home. On city records, she says she shares a spacious brick home on Liberty Heights Avenue with her father, stepmother and brother — all elected officials.

However, Conaway and her husband signed tax documents on which they attested that their primary residence was in Randallstown.

Conaway has said she signed the papers by accident and that she purchased the home for her ailing mother. Conaway declined to say in a recent interview whether she would repay the Homestead Tax Credit on the Baltimore County property.

"There's a difference between primary residence and domicile," said Conaway, referring to a Court of Appeals ruling that elected officials need only have a place to call home in their districts. She declined to comment further.

Mosby tried to capitalize on the controversy in his campaign literature.

His fliers showed a pair of hands clutching prison bars and said, "Belinda Conaway lied to get out of paying her fair share of taxes."

Conaway described Mosby's campaign as the "dirtiest … we have seen in Baltimore in years."

Mosby declined to comment specifically on Conaway's allegations.

"I don't get caught up in the negativity," he said, adding that he was focused on "making life better for the residents of the 7th District."

As she campaigned last week, Conaway acknowledged the challenge she faces. Not only is it a struggle to wage a write-in campaign, but few voters in heavily-Democratic Baltimore cast ballots in the general election.

But, Conaway told a constituent recently, a successful write-in campaign could send a powerful message to City Hall.

"If you can write in a candidate, you can make a difference in the city as a whole," she said.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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