Lapides, critical of Schmoke, eyes bid for mayor


State Sen. Julian L. Lapides, calling Kurt L. Schmoke a disappointment as a mayor who has allowed the city to drift, said yesterday that he may run for mayor this year.

Mr. Lapides, in what he termed a "trial balloon," criticized Mr. Schmoke's handling of a number of challenges, including the city's growing murder rate and disappointments with schools Superintendent Richard C. Hunter. The senator suggested that the mayor's heart is not in the job.

"There are lots of things we could do," said Mr. Lapides, a Bolton Hill resident who has served in the General Assembly since the administration of President John F. Kennedy. "The schools are a disaster; the whole Hunter thing is a fiasco."

"I was one of the mayor's early supporters, but I'm a little unhappy with him now," said Mr. Lapides, who was one of the first elected officials to endorse Mr. Schmoke's election bid in 1987.

Mr. Lapides said he has been encouraged to run. "I'm not ruling it out," he said, "but I think the likelihood of my running is remote."

The senator, who is white, said Mr. Schmoke's election as Baltimore's first elected black mayor was an important step toward empowering black voters in the city. Now, however, white candidates should no longer feel that their success would stand in the way of history, he said.

"I thought we should elect a black mayor, but now that we have done it, it's up for grabs," said Mr. Lapides. "We have passed the Rubicon in terms of electing a black mayor."

Schmoke associates telephoned Mr. Lapides yesterday to determine how serious he was. "I think my good friend Jack is joking, is having a little fun with you," Daniel P. Henson, a businessman who is a political strategist for the mayor, told The Sun. "Jack's not running."

Two other people have said they may challenge the mayor: former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns and Northwestern High School Principal Boyse Mosley. Both have said raising money might be an insurmountable problem.

Money could be a problem for Mr. Lapides, too. Under General Assembly rules, he cannot do any political fund raising until after the legislative session ends in April. The handicap severely curtails his chances of raising the $150,000 he says he would need to mount a credible campaign. The mayor has already raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions.

Mr. Lapides said he was disappointed with the mayor for suggesting new councilmanic boundaries that move Bolton Hill from the 2nd District to the 4th District. That would undermine political alliances Bolton Hill has had with 2nd District neighborhoods sharing similar demographics, including Mount Vernon, Charles Village and Tuscany-Canterbury.

Ironically, a state redistricting could leave Mr. Lapides with little to lose by running for mayor. His 44th Legislative District may be eliminated under the state reapportionment that is required after every new census.

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