Bea Gaddy, the celebrated East Baltimore activist for the poo and homeless, has announced her candidacy for a 1st District City Council seat, declaring that "to do a better job of helping people rebuild their lives, I need to be where the laws are made."
Mrs. Gaddy, 57, is currently searching for a qualified volunteer to manage her campaign. She said she would be filing as a Democrat in about two weeks for the primary in September.
"It's time to stop feeling that I can not compete with the power structure," Mrs. Gaddy said yesterday at the soup kitchen and homeless shelter she operates at 140 N. Collington St., near Patterson Park. She and a team of volunteers have fed and sheltered thousands of people in the narrow row house over 12 years.
"I feel I can win. I feel I can do a better service to people if I'm in a decision-making seat," she said. "I've filed before and then taken my name out of the race because I was afraid to compete with the people with money. I'm not afraid anymore."
In the race, Mrs. Gaddy will probably face three incumbents -- the perennial east-side Democratic machine of Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro and John A. Schaefer, and political outsider Nick D'Adamo -- in addition to an expected slate of numerous hopefuls.
In the last City Council election, 14 1st District candidates vied for the three available seats.
Mr. DiPietro said yesterday that he did not know who Mrs. Gaddy was. Mr. Schaefer, however, said he thought Bea Gaddy was best suited to the charitable work she has been doing for so many years, and Mr. D'Adamo said her candidacy would guarantee a close race.
"She's a good woman, and she has incredible name recognition; it will make for a tighter race for all of us," Mr. D'Adamo said from his family odds-and-ends store in Highlandtown.
Mr. D'Adamo, a long shot who beat out incumbent Donald G. Hammen four years ago when Mr. Hammen ran on the DiPietro "Proven Democratic Team" ticket, said one of Mrs. Gaddy's challenges would be getting poor people to turn out on Election Day.
"She'll be taking [voters] away [from incumbents], but are her people voters?" said Mr. D'Adamo, who left open to the #i possibility of running on a ticket with Mrs. Gaddy if asked. "She's going to have to get out there and work."
Mrs. Gaddy -- a forceful public speaker who transformed herself from a welfare mother to a college graduate working for the poor -- said she is counting on people to put her in office and will not need a large amount of money to be successful.
"I'm asking knowledgeable people from the public to help form a committee to get Bea Gaddy elected," she said. "I know how these things are done, but I don't know everything."
If elected, Mrs. Gaddy would be the first black council representative in the district.
The 1st District, bordered by the harbor on the south, downtown on the west, Dundalk to the east, and Belair Road on the north, is more than 70 percent white and includes the heavily ethnic neighborhoods of Highlandtown, Little Italy, Fells Point and Canton.
Mrs. Gaddy said that her food, shelter and employment programs, all of which bear her name, enlist volunteers from each of those neighborhoods and that the one thing that all ethnic groups have in common is people who are poor. The middle class is being phased out," she said.
"I have people who have worked and been middle-class all their lives coming to my door, and they're embarrassed to ask for help. We are now servicing people who are losing their homes, who have never been without anything before in their lives. I want the people who can help me get elected to look at what I've done for these people."