Four years ago, the 6th District had just been redistricted from majority white to majority black. A team of white City Council incumbents fought a turf war with three black political neophytes in a district that never had elected a black council member.
But in this year's battle by nine candidates for top spots in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, there is little controversy, a relatively small number of candidates are campaigning extensively but not intensively, and no one is blatantly playing the race card.
"It's more low key than elections I have seen when I was there. There hasn't been the same flurry of activity," said Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, who gave up his 6th District seat to run for City Council president.
Mr. DiBlasi, along with Timothy D. Murphy, were the entrenched councilmen when the three black candidates tried to knock them off the council in 1991. None did, though Councilman Melvin Stukes gained a seat after bumping out Edward L. Reisinger, the third member on the DiBlasi-Murphy ticket, who is running again this year.
Mr. Reisinger had been appointed to the council in 1990 after the death of William J. Myers.
The Rev. Norman A. Handy Sr. replaced Mr. Murphy, who now represents the 47th legislative district in the House of Delegates, on the council this year and is running on a ticket with Mr. Stukes.
Mr. Handy and Mr. Reisinger say that though they have never nTC been elected, they would bring experience to the council.
The six other candidates include a retired policeman, a retired accountant, a minister and a college student studying law enforcement. Also running are Rodney A. Orange, the president of the Baltimore NAACP, and Michael L. Keeney, a community activist.
Mr. Stukes could benefit from being the only incumbent, just as Mr. Reisinger's experience on the council could help him, political observers said. Mr. Keeney is aided by his association with the politically connected Communities to Improve Life (COIL). And Mr. Orange gets a boost from his roots in the black community and his affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The blue-collar district includes neighborhoods that are closest to some of the city's most unpleasant industrial sites. It stretches from Beechfield in the southwestern tip of the city through Morrell Park and Brooklyn, and to Curtis Bay at Baltimore's southern border.
These are the nine candidates for the three seats:
* Lillian J. Carter, 33, of West Baltimore, a law enforcement student at Baltimore City Community College. If elected, she said, she will work for cleaner streets and reducing crime. She also said she wants to install police substations in the neighborhoods and encourage citizens on patrol groups to work closer with the police departments.
* Paul Cumberland, 67, a retired police officer from Pigtown. Crime and drugs are his priorities.
* Mr. Handy, 51, of Harlem Park, who says that his brief stint in council puts him ahead of the other candidates because he already knows the legislative process. He also said that he is still inexperienced enough to offer fresh ideas. If elected, he said he would give vacant houses to entry-level city employees to encourage them to live in the city.
* Mr. Keeney, 45, a Baltimore native, who lives in Morrell Park. He has been the president of COIL, a powerful organization that encompasses 13 miles of neighborhoods in the district. He advocates giving police 4.5 percent interest home loans and has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. He also wants to raise police and teacher pay.
* Otis E. Lee, 77, who lives in in Edmondson Village and is a retired accountant. He has served on the Southwestern District Police Community Relations Council for 34 years and has held all the major offices. He wants to give businesses tax incentives.
* Daki Napata, 43, of Irvington, who has lost bids for 4th district council, City Council president and 6th District council. He is an associate minister at Union Baptist Church and was substance abuse coordinator for Head Start. He advocates cooperative involvement among police, teachers, business people, city government and community members to identify problems and find creative solutions to crime, drugs and other ills.
* Mr. Orange, 53, a steel worker from Franklin Square. He has been the president of the Baltimore NAACP for 13 years and was a presidential delegate for Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic National Convention in 1988. He also ran for a 6th District council seat in 1991. He says he wants to improve the Lombard and Pratt streets corridors. He also wants to close three of the nine police precincts and place those officers on the streets citywide.
* Mr. Reisinger, 45, an optical shop laboratory manager from Morrell Park. He has been on the Democratic State Central Committee for eight years. While a council member, he said he fought to keep a larger number of firefighters on the trucks and keep fire stations open. He said he would start a task force to deal with vacant houses and related issues. Mr. DiBlasi has said he will endorse Mr. Reisinger.
* Incumbent Stukes, who is highlighting his joint effort to commission a study to examine automobile insurance rates in the city, his "Operation Clean Sweep" program to clean the streets, which has been adopted by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and expanded throughout the city, and his work to bolster the number of Parent Teacher Associations in the city.