As the only white candidate in the race for City Council president, Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi's winning formula is simple: Go after the white vote and hope his three black opponents split the black vote.
"He's basically saying that he doesn't see how he can lose by being the only white candidate in the race," said 1st District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., who has endorsed Mr. DiBlasi. "I don't know, it could work."
"You know what he's doing?" said Carl Stokes (2nd District), who opposes Mr. DiBlasi along with Vera P. Hall (5th District) and Lawrence A. Bell III (4th District). "He's telling people, 'I'm the only guy, wink, wink, wink, you know what I mean?' "
"The white vote will be my strong vote," said the 6th District Democrat. "I'm not working hard in black districts because I'm not going to win [there]. Some might call it racist; I call it concession."
If Baltimoreans vote along racial lines, Mr. DiBlasi, who counts economic development, crime and education reform as his most pressing campaign issues, could win the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
The other candidates "are going to win in their districts," he said. "My plan is to win the 1st, 3rd and 6th districts. This is not about race. We're not ignoring anybody; what we're talking about is a strategy to win."
The 1st and the 3rd districts have large blocs of white voters. The six City Council members from those districts are white.
Mr. DiBlasi also has concentrated on getting votes in the white enclaves of Hampden in the 4th District and of Mount Washington in the 5th District. Within his own 6th district, which is about 60 percent black and 40 percent white, Mr. DiBlasi is the only white of the three representatives on the council. The others are black.
The quiet councilman with a near-perfect attendance record (he has missed one meeting, a few months ago, since his first election in 1983) took his strategy to the 3rd District's Chesterfield Avenue, near Herring Run Park one cool day this week. He jogged up the stairs and rocketed over railings to front porches. The hours he puts in as an assistant basketball coach at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Southeast Baltimore showed.
Once at the door he quickly dropped a postcard-size blue and white card that touted his qualities for council presidency. He never knocked on one door.
Stopping to talk to people "takes too much time," Mr. DiBlasi said. "Instead of rapping at every door, you just blitz! It is much more effective."
For those outside their homes, Mr. DiBlasi, in one fluid motion, handed over one of his cards and said, "Look us up and check our record" as he turned toward the next house.
Mr. DiBlasi's record includes much legislation involving sports, including increasing the penalty for ticket scalping and funding for a football stadium. He has also logged in hours as co-chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
And he worked to end the container tax this year.
Mr. DiBlasi traces his political origins to the days of William
Donald Schaefer, who was mayor when Mr. DiBlasi was elected to city council. The council president during that time, Clarence H. Du Burns, has endorsed Mr. DiBlasi.
But some residents in his district don't give Mr. DiBlasi high marks.
"We have not seen him in this area since the last election," said Doris McGuigan, who says she is active in the district's politics.
"We don't see him much," said Delores Barnes who heads the Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn. "I wouldn't go out of my way to give him any special praise."
Mr. DiBlasi has also had his low moments in council. Council President Mary Pat Clarke forced him out as the sole chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee in 1991. He also failed to amass enough support to succeed former Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean after she left office amid a corruption scandal last year.
A former vice president of Maryland National Corp., Mr. DiBlasi's pro-business stance in the council has been eclipsed by his opponents' pet issues, which include the police administration, housing and the city's school contract with Education Alternatives Inc.
"I hope after 12 years they'll know who I am," Mr. DiBlasi said.