Heated City Council races


Democracy works! We make this happy prediction on the basis of candidates who have filed for September's primary election. The Baltimore City Council may never know what hit it, but it is in for major changes.

While much of the pre-election coverage focuses on the mayoral race between Kurt L. Schmoke and Mary Pat Clarke, some of the most heated contests are in neighborhoods. This is particularly true in Northwest Baltimore's Fifth District, where Councilwoman Vera Hall is running for City Council president, and Councilwoman Iris Reeves is retiring. A total of 15 Democrats are scrambling for the seats, including incumbent Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector. How it all shapes up is anyone's guess.

Another tight contest is being fought in East Baltimore's First District. Fourteen Democrats are in the race. It seems almost certain that one or more of the incumbents -- John L. Cain, Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. and Louise Garey -- will be defeated by the insurgents who include Charles Krysiak, a scion of the East Baltimore political dynasty, and Kelley Ray, a relative newcomer.

In crowded fields, a recognizable name is an advantage. In the Third District, Martin Curran is leaving the council but his brother, Robert, hopes to succeed him. In the Fifth, Stephanie Rawlings, a daughter of Del. Howard P. Rawlings, is in the race. In the Fourth, Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. is fighting for a seat family members have held previously.

For about 20 years now, African-Americans have argued that their numbers justify the election of a black council member from Northeast Baltimore's Third District. That has not happened because of strong white incumbents and the failure of blacks to unify behind one candidate. This history may again repeat itself: There are too many serious black candidates splitting the vote in the Third.

In citywide elections, Joan Pratt, a certified public accountant, is running for city comptroller against Julian "Jack" Lapides, a former state senator known for his fiscal acumen. Hers is an uphill struggle because of Mr. Lapides' broad appeal and campaigning skills.

The race to succeed Mary Pat Clarke as City Council president is toss-up. Councilman Carl Stokes seems to lead the pack now, but Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi is in a position to surprise.

Baltimore's anemic Republican party -- which has not had an elected official in city government since the 1960s -- could not produce candidates for city comptroller or council president. For mayor, though, it has five candidates, including a former city detective involved in a controversial 1980 shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old. It seems safe to predict the mayor's office will elude the Republicans this year.

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