Planning fiscal watchdog strategy, McLean doesn't foresee an adversarial role


As the person likely to become Baltimore's next fiscal watchdog, Jacqueline F. McLean has no intention of softening her bite. She just may not bark as loudly.

In her first bid for citywide office, Mrs. McLean outdistanced two challengers Thursday to capture the Democratic nomination for comptroller. If Baltimore voters support her in the November general election as strongly as they did in the primary, how loud she barks and how hard she bites will be of great interest to officials and citizenry alike.

Although the outgoing comptroller, Hyman A. Pressman, earned a reputation early on as a snarling, snapping type, Mrs. McLean says that the present, recession-pinched times require that the comptroller take a slightly different posture.

"I don't see it as an adversary type of position," Mrs. McLean said. "We must work with the mayor, and we're going to have to work with the City Council in order to get us back on track from a financial point of view. . . . If we're going to run smoothly . . . we have to have open communication."

In November, Mrs. McLean faces Republican Marshall W. Jones Jr.

If elected, she will have gone from a political unknown to one of the three top elected offices in the city in just eight years. As comptroller, the 47-year-old Guilford resident will serve alongside the mayor and City Council president on the Board of Estimates, which approves all city contracts and expenditures.

"With Jackie's smashing victory, it potentially sets her up for bigger and better things in the city. She transcended all groups," said state Sen. Nathan C. Irby Jr., D-Baltimore. And ". . . she knows how to play. That's the key to politics."

The primary victory "certainly catapults Jackie to the forefront of Baltimore City politics," said state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore.

But whether her place on the political landscape changes could well depend on her relationships with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

"It will be interesting if she becomes a total Schmoke loyalist," said Mr. Lapides. "Then the two of them are in a position to freeze Mary Pat out of major decisions."

Councilman Carl Stokes, an ally of Mrs. Clarke who comes from the same 2nd District as both women, says the two have been "competitive" since Mrs. Clarke returned to City Hall in 1987. That competition is expected to continue as both set their sights on higher office.

Mrs. McLean's pursuit of office began when she ran for the City Council in a district in which she was not even a resident -- legal at the time -- and knocked off an incumbent. She knocked on doors in that campaign, too, but she also spent $35,000 of her own money on television commercials and radio ads -- the first council candidate to use the media in that way.

When she set out to run for comptroller, her husband, Jim McLean, and a corps of campaign advisers determined that she needed about 43,000 votes out of the 100,000 they estimated would be cast.

In Thursday's primary, 111,001 went to the polls, and Mrs. McLean received 45,849 votes.

The McLean campaign anticipated that its greatest challenge would be overcoming a black opponent in a three-way race that included a white candidate.

Mrs. McLean concentrated on capturing the black vote, Mr. McLean said. The only one of the six districts she failed to carry was the 1st, the only district still majority white.

"A lot of people underestimated Jackie's strength because they didn't know what she was doing," said Mr. McLean. "We knew she was a good crossover candidate."

Racial voting patterns

.. .. .. .. .. .. .Black precints.. .. ..White precints

Comptroller.. .. ..1991.. ..1987.. .. .. 1991.. ..1987

Mary Conaway.. .. ..24%.. .. 37%.. .. .. ..9%.. .. .4%

Joseph T. Landers.. .7%.. .. .. .. .. .. .73%.. .. .. .

Jacqueline McLean.. 70%.. .. .. .. .. .. .18%.. .. .. .

Hyman Pressman.. .. .. .. .. 37%.. .. .. .. .. .. .74%

Thomas Waxter.. .. .. .. .. .21%.. .. .. .. .. .. .20%

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