Schmoke lines up legislators' backing as he prepares for campaign kickoff today


State Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman received the luncheon invitation, but a previous engagement on July 1 will keep her from publicly announcing her support for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's re-election bid then. The mayor, she says matter-of-factly, already has her endorsement.

Delegate Elijah E. Cummings most certainly will be there, "alive and in living color" and with the mayor's achievements spouting from his lips.

State Sen. John A. Pica Jr. can't remember whether he has been invited. But, "I am on board," he adds quickly. "I'm expecting a call from Danny or Larry any day, because I know what's on their minds."

Daniel P. Henson III and Larry S. Gibson are Mr. Schmoke's political strategists, the developer and the law professor who, along with Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro, make up the Schmoke campaign triumvirate. What is on their minds is locking up the support of Baltimore's legislative leaders before Mr. Schmoke officially kicks off his campaign today.

So, when the mayor greets well-wishers at his fried chicken and Korean barbecue fund-raiser at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum this evening, beside him will be a long line of state senators and delegates, including legislators from the East Baltimore home turf of his most visible challenger, former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns.

"I have committed to Schmoke, and I haven't made any bones about it," said Delegate Clarence "Tiger" Davis, who described Mr. Burns as a "mentor."

"I was a strong supporter of Du Burns. I love Du, but as far as this election is concerned, I am looking toward the future. I'm not going backwards, and that's basically what it boils down to," Mr. Davis said.

Tonight, the Schmoke campaign expects to repeat its successful $20-a-ticket fund-raiser of last June, which drew 2,500 people to the B&O.; Then, as now, city legislators were asked to be on hand.

The drill this time was laid out in a June 12 letter from Mr. Henson, complete with complimentary tickets for the B&O; museum event, an invitation to the July 1 luncheon briefing and a directive to attend a news conference that day "to announce your support for the Mayor."

While many shrugged off that last pronouncement as nothing but making formal support already pledged, some privately questioned the tenor of the request.

They said it suggested "a command performance" from legislators, some of whom hadn't yet talked with Mr. Schmoke.

"A little presumptuous," said one city politician.

"I'm committed to him, but I felt there should be discussion beforehand," said another, who also asked not to be identified.

But most of the mayor's legislative supporters didn't think twice about the request.

"I made it clear several months ago that I thought he was doing a great job and I would be supporting his re-election," said Delegate Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings of West Baltimore.

"We have a budget that's in the black when cities across the country are falling apart. We have managed our resources so the City Council is giving a 5-cent cut in the property tax rate . . . and the mayor has spent more local money for education than any other mayor in the history of the city," Mr. Rawlings said.

"The nature of the relationship that I have with Danny and, to some extent with the mayor, is my support is implicit," said Delegate Salima Siler Marriott of West Baltimore.

Mr. Henson is the man in the Schmoke campaign who "works out our political arrangements with other elected officials and has done so all along," said Mr. Gibson, the campaign manager. "Dan is sort of our political secretary of state."

He is the same Schmoke operative who helped hand out thousands of dollars from the mayor's flush campaign treasury last fall to delegates and senators, incumbents and challengers, who were running for office. Many of those same legislators were invited to the July 1 luncheon.

"That's the first place you'd start [with] people you'd help," said Senator Hoffman, whose re-election ticket received $2,500 from Mr. Schmoke. "You would ask them for support in return. If you know you're not going to support him, you don't take his money."

State Sen. George W. Della Jr., who says he is not among the mayor's fans, had another view of the luncheon invitations.

"If he's sending letters out to the members of the legislature to attend a function and announce their support publicly and pledge their oath, he must think he's in trouble," Mr. Della said. "And he might be."

Mr. Henson said the Schmoke administration is not expecting endorsements at the July 1 luncheon. "We hope they would. That's up to them," said Mr. Henson, who reminds legislators in his letter that there are only 72 days from July 1 until the September 12 primary. "I invited a few friends of the mayor's and mine to a couple of fund-raisers and to a lunch."

Mr. Henson played down the significance of the letter, but legislators said it signaled the mayor's intention to lock up support fast, early and before his challengers hammer away at his administration in an effort to shake his support.

"It's an indication that he is gearing up and anticipating a possible serious challenge, and he's not taking anything for granted," said Delegate Kenneth C. Montague Jr., D-Baltimore. "He wants to make sure if there is any lingering doubt out there and that he can take care of it. He is trying to mobilize the political forces in the city behind him, so that if something springs up at the last minute he is prepared and he's covered his bases."

Mr. Schmoke said last week that he intends to run a "grass roots" campaign, similar to the one he waged for Baltimore state's attorney in 1982 that catapulted him into the political arena.

"It's old-fashioned stuff, district by district," in contrast to a "high-profile television campaign," Mr. Schmoke said. "People can really hear what I have to say. And I can hear what they have to say."

Already, at least eight of the city's nine senators have indicated their support for Mr. Schmoke, said state Sen. Julian L. Lapides of Bolton Hill. For some, the timing of the July 1 luncheon makes it difficult for them to endorse the mayor publicly because their political clubs will not decide on endorsements until later in the summer.

State Sen. Larry Young of West Baltimore is one supporter who thinks the mayor should have been out campaigning three or four months ago. He said the Schmoke train -- the symbol of the mayor's campaign -- is not yet a fast, running machine.

"It's nowhere near that yet. Long gone are the days when the incumbent feels they can turn on the faucet and in 90 days, 'Voila,' " Mr. Young said. "I just wanted the guy I'm supporting to get out a little earlier. But he's made the decision to do it the 23rd and to really kick July 1, and then we'll get going."

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