Four years ago, just after the councilmanic redistricting plan changed the 3rd District from majority white to majority black, black residents called for political change. They wanted to elect the first black City Council representative from their turf.
It didn't happen. Veteran Councilmen Martin E. "Mike" Curran and Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham were swept into office along with young upstart Martin O'Malley.
This year, those same calls for a leadership change have come again.
Seven blacks and two whites have risen to the challenge. The ranks include a government worker, a factory worker, an insurance analyst and a man with a long criminal record.
Mr. Cunningham and Mr. O'Malley both are seeking re-election. Mr. Curran has retired after serving on the council for 17 years, leaving his seat up for grabs.
But unseating the entrenched incumbents will be tough, though Mr. Cunningham is viewed as slightly more vulnerable than Mr. O'Malley, said Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., a Democrat from the 43rd state legislative district, who has lived in Waverly for 20 years.
Mr. Montague said that Mr. Cunningham is linked to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's policies, which will help him in Northwood, but hurt him in northeast sections such as Hamilton.
Also hurting Mr. Cunningham is candidate Robert Curran, the brother of retiring Councilman Mike Curran. Mr. Curran is running on the strength of his family name. His campaign signs only tout his last name and are written in the exact color and style of his brother's signs from years past, which could confuse voters.
And this year is better than four years ago in getting at least one black representative, residents and community activists say.
Black candidates Joan Carter Conway and Nina Harper have run spirited campaigns and look like the best shots for becoming the first black representative from this district, Mr. Montague said.
"In order for us to break through, we need to back one or two candidates," said Nina Harper, a black challenger who lives in Belair-Edison.
Mr. O'Malley, Mr. Curran and Mrs. Conway are running on one ticket. The other challengers include:
* Lloyd R. Barnes III, a 31-year-old U.S. Postal Service letter carrier from Northwood, says that he wants to make the city a safer place to live for all. He would give tax credits for businesses, recruit more African-American male teachers and raise teacher salaries by $10,000.
* Candidate Phillip A. Brown Jr., 40, has a list of criminal charges dating back to 1977. Since then, he has been found guilty of larceny, shoplifting, probation violation and impersonating a police officer, court records show. Mr. Brown, who says he is a community activist, did not return calls to a reporter.
* Mrs. Conway, a 44-year-old Northwood resident, says she is running a populist campaign and will form most of her plans after talking them over with residents. But she says that she wants to change the school board from appointed positions to elected positions. Last year she ran for a seat in the 43rd legislative district of the House of Delegates, but lost.
* Robert W. Curran, 45, lives in Northwood and comes from a distinguished family involved in politics. His brother is Mike Curran who just retired from the council. Their father Joseph was a councilman in the 1940s.
Mr. Curran, a process foreman at Domino Sugar, said that he wants to maintain the city's manufacturing base and enact legislation to curb gun violence.
* Michael Vernon Dobson, a 45-year-old from Hillen Road Improvement Association in Northwood, is a claims analyst with a bankruptcy insurance company.
His candidacy centerpiece is rebuilding the school system. If elected, he said that he would have equal funding for each student, use surveillance equipment in classrooms in hopes of eliminating disruptive behavior and develop a city-wide mentoring program.
* Mrs. Harper, 44, is a technical support specialist for a telephone company. She ran a strong campaign four years ago for a council seat in the third district.
She counts public safety and preserving the neighborhoods as her hallmarks. If elected, she said she would see that the housing codes were enforced better, set community guidelines that guides renters as to what the homeowners do to keep up the neighborhood.
* Dan L. Hiegel is a 41-year-old unemployed Govans resident. He ran for Baltimore's mayor in 1991 and says that if elected, he would sue the federal government for continuing welfare. He also said he wants to build a state prison in the city to house the "many murderous armed robbers on the street."
* Andre Holden, 34, a graduate of Morgan State University, said that he wants armed citizen patrols. He also said the he supports corporal punishment for violent students.
* Donald Washington, 34, a North Baltimore resident, said that if elected, he will introduce legislation to make the community safer.
The challengers with the most organized campaigns include Mrs. Conway, Mr. Curran and Mrs. Harper.
Mrs. Harper is a member of the State Central Committee and has the backing of AFL-CIO and the Fraternal Order of Police. Her signs pepper lawns throughout the district.
Mrs. Conway and Mr. Curran have joined a ticket with Mr. O'Malley.
Critics have accused Mr. Curran of blurring the lines between himself and his brother by posting signs that only have their last name.
"People, politicians and neighborhood leaders know the difference between us," Mr. Curran said. "I'm proud of my name, I'm not going to hide behind it."
Mr. O'Malley, a former city prosecutor from Lauraville, hopes that Mr. Curran's name appeal and Mrs. Conway's cross-racial appeal will make the perfect ticket.
Mr. O'Malley has gained citywide attention in his role as the chairman of the council's Legislative Investigations Committee. He has consistently criticized Schmoke administrative officials over the merits of the $25.6 million Housing Authority no-bid pTC repair program, which spent millions with politically connected firms and squandered more on phony bills and inflated costs.
If elected to another term, Mr. O'Malley said he wanted to improve the crumbling business corridors on Harford Road, Greenmount Avenue and York Road.
Improving those once-thriving areas also are on the to-do list of Mr. Cunningham, who is seeking a third term. "I came into the council as a community activist and I will continue to be an advocate for the communities," Mr. Cunningham said. If elected, "in the next four years, I'm going to continue exactly what I have been doing. I will follow through with more community policing and begin to market the under-utilized sections of the city."