With the mayoral primary campaign down to its final days, top Democratic challengers Clarence H. Du Burns and William A. Swisher have launched television advertising campaigns attacking Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
In a series of commercials that began airing over the weekend, Burns paints a picture of Baltimore as a dirty, crime-ridden city that suffers from weak leadership. The primary election is Thursday.
One of the spots charges that while Schmoke as mayor has found time to call for a debate on drug decriminalization, people in the streets of Baltimore are living in fear of drug-related crime. "I want to make Baltimore safe again," Burns says.
In another spot, Burns takes aim at Schmoke's management ability. "His first priority was the schools. They're floundering. He can't work with the state and he can't manage the people around him," Burns says. "What was everybody so excited about in the first place?"
Meanwhile, Swisher is airing ads that also take aim at Schmoke's call for a debate on drug decriminalization. Swisher says the only business thriving in Baltimore "is the drug business."
The Swisher and Burns ads are airing on the city's major TV stations, while Swisher also has spots on several cable television stations, officials in both campaigns said.
"We're just trying to emphasize the point that Mr. Schmoke had his chance and we think that he is not doing a good job," says Robert J. Pivec, a Swisher campaign coordinator.
Swisher also has a commercial in which he quotes from a report by nationally known writer Neal R. Peirce, who did a study of the city that appeared in The Sunday Sun in May. The report said the city is in a "free fall" -- a conclusion Schmoke and others disputed.
"We just took the headlines out of the Sunpapers and integrated them into the commercial," says Ron Jones, another Swisher campaign coordinator.
Schmoke campaign officials bristle at the salvos from the mayor's opponents. "When you rely on the negative you have nothing positive to say about yourself or your campaign," says Clinton R. Coleman, Schmoke's press secretary.
The television ads mark a change in a campaign that until now had been quiet and waged mostly in the political trenches.
Swisher and Burns have had to borrow money to keep their campaigns afloat, so the ads mean that the candidates are pulling out all stops trying to upset Schmoke in Thursday's primary.
Schmoke has more than $300,000 left in his campaign coffers and has been airing radio spots promoting his campaign. They talk mostly about his record as mayor and the large number of endorsements he has landed in the campaign.
There was no word from Schmoke's camp about whether he would launch any commercials on the city's major television stations. He has run some on cable television.
"We're planning an effective response to the negative campaigns being run by the mayor's opponents," Coleman says.