Political assumptions are accepted as truths -- until some upset proves them wrong. Perhaps this is one of those watershed years. At least there is a growing feeling among candidates that conventional rules may not apply to this primary election and almost anything could happen Sept. 12.
For the more than 100 candidates running in the primary, these are days of nervousness.
The feeling of unpredictability is fostered by such evidence as the failure of Northwest Baltimore's Fifth District New Democratic Club to endorse either the incumbent Kurt Schmoke or challenger Mary Pat Clarke for mayor and the club's inability to support any of the four leading Democratic candidates for City Council president.
Uncertainty reigns supreme in the contests for the City Council's 18 seats.
Five of the current members are relinquishing their seats. In addition, two current members were nominated to fill vacancies so recently that their advantage of incumbency is debatable. These circumstances usually produce toss-up races.
Potential for surprises is particularly great in the Fifth District, where incumbents Vera Hall and Iris Reeves are vacating seats. Sixteen Democrats are scrambling for the three positions. At least eight of them can make a claim to some kind of political base or are conducting a serious campaign.
Conditions for upsets are also present in the First, Third and Sixth districts, in each case for different reasons.
In the First, a group of East Baltimore millionaires is trying to oust Councilman John Cain, whom they attack as being anti-business. Because Lois Geary was appointed to a seat only last winter, both of these incumbents may be vulnerable to challenges from such candidates as Kelley Ray, a community activist, and young Charles Krysiak, who comes from an established political family.
In the Third District, Robert W. Curran is trying to capture a seat vacated by his brother, Martin. He -- and the two Northeast Baltimore incumbents Wilbur Cunningham and Martin O'Malley -- face a challenge by a number of strong insurgents, including Nina Harper, Joan Carter Conway and Michael Vernon Dobson.
In Southwest Baltimore's Sixth District, a scramble is on for a seat vacated by Joe DiBlasi, while Norman Handy has to defend his brief incumbency. Among contenders are Michael Keeney, Otis Lee, Rodney Orange and Edward Reisinger.
For Baltimore voters, this is the time to get to know the candidates and their positions. One truth is a lasting one in all elections: every vote counts.