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Schmoke wins over Morrell Park crowd Voters in community that once rejected mayor now support him


Four years ago, most voters in Morrell Park would have nothing to do with the young black Baltimore state's attorney who was campaigning to be their mayor.

When the votes were cast, Kurt L. Schmoke had won the election. But then-incumbent Clarence H. "Du" Burns took the vote of this blue-collar community cut off from the rest of the city by railroad tracks.

Yesterday, Mr. Schmoke -- who is facing Mr. Burns again in Thursday's Democratic mayoral primary -- returned to the pTC neighborhood where he was trounced four years ago, only this time there were plenty of people applauding.

"This bodes well for Baltimore," Mr. Schmoke told a crowd of about 100 people at a political rally at the American Legion Post No. 137 on DeSoto Avenue. "It means we're all going to come together regardless of race or color or class and make this a better city."

Mr. Burns' closeness with Gov. William Donald Schaefer brought him a reputation as being more closely aligned with white political groups in the city. That helped Mr. Burns beat Mr. Schmoke in predominantly white working-class neighborhoods across the city and draw to within a slim margin of Mr. Schmoke overall.

But many people who attended the rally say they have been won over after seeing Mr. Schmoke help their community with a range of concerns during the past four years.

Wayne L. Sherman, a member of the Morrell Park Democratic Club, said the mayor won supporters in March by interceding on behalf of neighborhood leaders when a planned rally in a park in support of U.S. troops was threatened by a bureaucratic holdup.

"People said the guy's not bad, he really cares about little people," Mr. Sherman said.

Apparently not all of the people in attendance will be voting for Mr. Schmoke, however. Several people said crime and other city problems have gotten worse since he took office and said they would vote for Mr. Burns.

"I close this place up at 2 a.m., put my pocketbook under my arm and run for home," said Pat Burr, who served hot dogs and sauerkraut at the political rally. "You can't call the police because nobody comes."

But Mr. Schmoke said because he did so poorly in the area the last time, any success he has here will come at the expense of Mr. Burns and of former Baltimore State's Attorney William A. Swisher, who also is running for mayor.

"I'm really pleased by this," Mr. Schmoke said. "Any small gain I make in the 6th is a blow to them."

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