For the past eight years, the well-oiled 5th District machine of the Spector-Reeves-Hall City Council team had proved unassailable to every challenger.
But now that Iris G. Reeves has retired and Vera P. Hall is running for City Council President, Rochelle Rikki Spector is left alone to fend off a slew of candidates anxious to knock her from a post she has held for 18 years.
Fourteen challengers -- the most of any district -- have entered the race for the three seats in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
The diverse group includes a graphic artist, three college professors, a retired truant officer, a minister, a real estate businessman, two business owners and three community activists who lost in previous years against the Spector-Reeves-Hall team.
Mrs. Spector has put together another slate that includes Stephanie C. Rawlings, 25, the daughter of state Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, and Harry E. Smith, a community activist hand-picked by state Sen. Clarence W. Blount.
Mrs. Spector said Ms. Rawlings was picked to add youth and a fresh perspective and Mr. Smith was chosen because he had a good relationship with state-level politicians. She said she will give the ticket a proven level of experience in the council.
Mrs. Spector says the ticket provides "width and breadth." Her opponents say it provides Mrs. Spector, who is white, the only chance to win in a predominantly black district in which her record in the black community is undistinguished.
The Rawlings-Smith-Spector team has a good shot at capturing all the seats, political observers say. The other front-runners mounting aggressive campaigns are Michael Eugene Johnson, who came in fourth in the last election, and Helen L. Holton, who has name recognition in the community.
Mrs. Spector did not get an endorsement from her long-time running mate, Mrs. Hall.
"She has not asked me," Mrs. Hall said. "I haven't endorsed anyone for 5th District."
Instead, Mrs. Hall said anyone on the Spector team as well as Mr. Johnson and Ms. Holton would serve the district well.
The district is home to the traditionally Jewish neighborhoods that border Baltimore County and are the base of Mrs. Spector's support. It also includes the settled upper-middle-class communities of Mount Washington and Homeland. But the district also encompasses lower Park Heights, a majority black, low-income area where drugs and crime are rampant.
Particularly in the Park Heights area, Northern Parkway is the unofficial line of demarcation. Below the line, in poor sections, the cries for change are loudest but above the line is where most of the votes come.
These are the challengers:
* Ms. Holton, 35, of Greater West Hills is a certified public accountant with her own business. For the past seven years, she was the treasurer of the Black Jewish Forum of Baltimore, and she was the treasurer of the National Political Congress of Black Women. She has an education platform that includes calls for classes to teach parental skills, courses in conflict resolution and ethnic diversity and health centers and social services in schools.
* Mr. Johnson, 40, of Mount Washington is a hospital community development worker. This is his third consecutive attempt at a council seat. In 1991, he was the top vote-getter behind the Spector-Reeves-Hall team. He says he will establish a council office within the district and provide a newsletter that tells the residents what council action affects the district. He claims an endorsement from Vera Hall but Mrs. Hall says she has not endorsed him.
* Ms. Rawlings of Ashburton is a recent University of Maryland Law School graduate. Five years ago, she was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee. She said that school administrators need to find ways to make children perform at higher-than-expected levels.
* Mr. Smith, 62, of Ashburton is a professor at Baltimore City Community College who says that he will educate the community on how to use city resources. He says his community recently won a $59,000 state grant to combat vehicle theft after he wrote to state Department of Public Safety officials who had designated money for communities.
* Marlon Bell, 21, of Garrison Hill, whose last job was at a day-care center, says he is working full time on his election, calling for more recreation centers and an elected school board.
* Robert John Berghel Jr., 37, of North Roland Park is vice president of a real estate firm. He wants to downsize city departments and use the money saved for education to attract more middle-class people to the city. He criticizes city government for not working hard enough to get services it needs at a cheaper price.
* V. Lee Brady Jr., 36, is a graphic artist from Pimlico. He ran for council in 1991 and says he wants to improve the networking skills between community associations.
* Ronald Carter, 22, of Park Heights attends few candidate forums and did not return telephone calls for comment.
* Isaiah C. Fletcher Sr., 67, of Woodhaven is a retired school teacher and college professor. Mr. Fletcher also ran for council in 1991 and says he will treat the council as a full-time job. He says he wants to motivate residents to clean up the dirty, unsafe areas of the district. He also would like to begin boxing and wrestling classes for young men to vent their anger in a positive way.
* Charles Griffin, 64, of West Arlington is a retired Howard County truant officer. He has a doctorate in educational administration and supervision. He wants to modify housing code laws to make enforcement easier, consistently conduct drug raids, remove pay telephones from known drug corners and use empty military barracks for temporary jails.
* Roland Holmes, 68, of Ashburton is a retired government employee. For the past 20 years, he was the president of Ashburton/East Arlington community association and former president of the Sandtown-Winchester Development Corp. He also worked in the city Office of the Comptroller. He wants to reduce class size and get the community more involved in stopping crime.
* E. Gail Anderson Holness, 38, of Ashburton is a business professor at Coppin State College and a Baptist minister. She has a law degree from Howard University and is pursuing a master's in theology at St. Mary's Seminary. Her campaign slogan is "Ignite the F.I.R.E.," or Fight violence and crime, Improve the public schools, Revitalize economic development, Empower the community.
* William L. Kelly Jr., 52, of Ashburton is a child support enforcement agent. He wants to put a law enforcement program in schools and add classes on parental skills and family counseling.
* Michelle Rosenberg, 51, of Dickeyville is a housewife and free-lance writer, who twice was elected to the State Central Committee. She wants to make education curriculum more challenging, but she says her main emphasis will be to help the average resident work through the maze of city bureaucracy.