Carl O. Snowden talks about the Ward 5 City Council race in Annapolis as if it were a pep rally, merely a warm-up to the main event, the Nov. 2 mayoral election.
Still, the two-term Democrat who is seeking re-election to the council is running a campaign that rivals the three mayoral candidates in its scope and belies the uphill battle of his Republican opponent, William G. Hill.
Mr. Snowden has secured the endorsements of major Democratic political figures around the state, such as Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes.
Through $100-a-plate fund-raisers and other events, he has collected more than $20,000 in campaign contributions from Democrats and Republicans throughout the city and across the state. By contrast, Mr. Hill, a Hunt Meadow resident and science teacher at Old Mill High School, has raised about $1,500.
"We're not running just for the 5th Ward," Mr. Snowden said BTC during a fund-raiser held for him in a West Street attorney's office in nearby Ward 3. "The campaign I've been running has been aimed at trying to get people encouraged . . . to vote citywide."
Referring to his 4-foot by 8-foot campaign signs along Forest Drive, he said, "I don't have them out for name recognition. People know me. The emphasis is to let people know there is an election going on."
Mr. Snowden, 40, a civil rights consultant to legal firms around the state, said he does not want a repeat of 1989, when he and Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, ran unopposed, giving their constituents, particularly black and lower-income voters, an excuse to stay home. As a result, they had little impact on the mayoral races, he said.
Before Nov. 2, Mr. Snowden said he will endorse one of this year's mayoral candidates and use his campaign riches to get voters from his and other wards to the polls. Historically, the alderman has been closely allied with former mayor Dennis Callahan, an independent candidate.
"Many have said that the mayoral race has been dull to date. We intend to change that," he said.
Heidi Berry, past chairwoman of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee, said she believes there is another reason Mr. Snowden is raising and spending so much money: he's scared of losing his seat.
"What I heard from communities from Hunt Meadow to the housing projects was 'we never see Carl. Thank God, he's being opposed,' " Ms. Berry said.
Ms. Berry is chiefly responsible for that opposition. The deadline for individuals to enter the Ward 5 race came and went this summer and no one had stepped forward to oppose Mr. Snowden.
That's when Ms. Berry and the GOP central committee sought out and nominated Mr. Hill, the president of the Cape St. Claire Volunteer Fire Company, who moved to Annapolis seven years ago.
When GOP officials came to him, "I jumped on the bandwagon and have been tooting my own horn ever since," said Mr. Hill, who has been helped in his campaign by prominent Republicans.
But Mr. Hill, 46, said he had thought about it previously. "I thought there was not equal representation for all the constituents, that Mr. Snowden was not representing Hunt Meadows," he said. "We see his name in the paper from time to time, but as far as ever being asked by him what would be our input into general policy-making, we haven't been contacted at all."
Mr. Hill said he has heard similar sentiments echoed throughout the majority black ward. "In the public housing projects, people I met said that he seemed to be looking out more for himself than them," Mr. Hill said.
Alderman Snowden, who has pushed through high-profile legislation banning sexual harassment and stalking and recently proposed creating a liaison panel to the county Board of Education, has ignored traffic safety and crime in Ward 5, which runs along the southwestern side of Forest Drive, Mr. Hill said.
Mr. Hill said the proposed education committee would "bog down everything with more bureaucracy." He said there are parent-teacher groups and citizen advisory councils at every school that city residents can participate in.
Mr. Snowden counters that he enticed the State Police to begin a statewide drug enforcement program in the Newtowne 20 neighborhood earlier this month, and has received commitments from the county to install a traffic signal at Newtowne and Forest drives to improve safety. He said he proposed the education committee after campaigning in Hunt Meadow and hearing concerns about public education in the city.
"Let's face it, no one wanted to run against me, so the Republican Central Committee found a sacrificial lamb," Mr. Snowden said. "Actually, it was the best thing that could have happened. It will help get people to the polls."