Cheering a refrain of of "tough and smart on crime," about 100 supporters of State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy headlined by Rep. Elijah Cummings and Kweisi Mfume attended a get out the vote rally Friday night in North Baltimore.

In what has been one of the defining storylines of the campaign, the speakers emphasized that Jessamy knows how to balance crime-fighting with intervention programs to help prevent the root causes of crime. They have contended that challenger Gregg Bernstein would do away with that, something he has disputed.

"You've got to lock people up, but you've also got to intervene early on in the lives of young people so that you're not producing criminals, not producing lawbreakers," Mfume said. "That's the smart part of it."

Said Cummings: "If you talk to most African American men in this city, they can tell you that one slip - one slip - and they may have been sitting in a prison somewhere. It's not about being nice on crime and easy on crime. It's about balance. It's about fairness. It's about seeing that every child has the potential to be what God meant for them to be."

Mfume said Jessamy has given 15 years of her life and needs others to "empower" her by doing their jobs right.

He said police need to make good arrests, "because if you give us good arrests, with the right kind of evidence, its easier for her to go and make the prosecutions that stick." Judges need to "understand that discretion is also about common sense - it's not about letting people on the streets so they can do the same thing all over again" or "not caring at all" and allowing the people she prosecutes back on the street. And probation officers need to violate people when they've "clearly violated their probation."

Bernstein, who was endorsed by The Sun's editorial board Friday, has chastised Jessamy for casting a wide net with her office's limited resources and letting violent criminals slip through the system. He has said he will focus on targeting repeat offenders, but the message has been viewed by many in the black community as too narrowly focused, and for some conjures up zero tolerance strategies of past regimes.

Bernstein was not mentioned by name, but there were several references to his campaign.


Del. Talmadge Branch, who praised Jessamy's work pushing tough anti-crime legislation in Annapolis, said Baltimore doesn't need a state's attorney who is "buddy-buddy with a police commissioner," a reference to Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III's support for Bernstein.

"We need somebody with a voice, somebody that's going to be fair, that's not going to agree to the police officers every time they want to prosecute a case," Branch said. "We want somebody who promotes the law and makes sure we get our fair shake. Not just blacks, not just white, but everybody."

Most of the speakers mentioned how race should not be a factor in the safety of the city, perhaps in part a response to today's story in The Sun. At their core, experts say, Jessamy and Bernstein's principles are rooted in different perspectives on how to fight crime, each which resonate differently with the white and black community.

"All of us want our streets to be safe," Cummings said. "We are one Baltimore."

Cummings said he and Jessamy were both targeted in the infamous "Stop Snitching" video, but said she didn't back down and pushed harder for protection for witnesses. He said a bill is stuck in the Senate that would give millions to states for witness protection programs, and that Jessamy played a key role.

"She is far more than a nice lady. She is a bold lady, and a strong state's attorney," he said.