Where is Baltimore's Political Fever?


In an editorial published in yesterday's editions of The Sun, an incorrect date for the Baltimore primary election was listed. The correct date is Sept. 12.

The Sun regrets the errors.

With the July 5 filing deadline less than three weeks away and the primary election a dozen weeks away, you would think political activity in Baltimore City would be at a fever pitch. Yet even with the controversy generated by the redistricting brouhaha, there is little visible evidence of wide voter interest -- even though the Sept. 13 primary and the general election in November will determine how Baltimore's government is run for the next four years, and by whom.

Half a dozen Democrats have filed to run against Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who is seeking a second term. But City Council President Mary Pat Clarke has no Democratic opponent yet, even though only Democrats have been elected to public offices in Baltimore for decades.

Last year's general election in Baltimore County produced a number of stunning upsets, with Republican candidates winning the county executive's office and three seats on the council. One would think that now the state Republican Party would put time and money into this year's city races. So far, however, we see little evidence of the Republicans realizing what a golden opportunity this lackluster political season could be. In fact, a Republican primary seems to be in the offing only in one councilmanic district -- the Fighting First.

The GOP's inability to attract a major candidate for the city comptroller's job is particularly disappointing. Hyman A. Pressman, the 28-year incumbent, is retiring without an heir apparent. This could give the vastly outnumbered city Republicans a legitimate shot at winning a citywide post -- if an appealing contender can be found. As a voting member of the Board of Estimates, the city comptroller is one of the most influential officials in the municipal government, controlling audits, acquiring and managing real estate, arranging insurance coverage and running the City Hall in-house mail service.

As the filing deadline approaches, the tempo of politics should pick up. Several challengers and incumbents -- including Mayor Schmoke -- will make their candidacies official. At candidates' forums and in informal encounters during the summer, voters should insist that those occupying jobs be held accountable for their performance.

Challengers, for their part, should not be permitted to run their mouths without detailing plans on how they would make the city better. Through such scrutiny and exploration this political season in Baltimore can still be energized.

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