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Mayoral race gets tighter, poll shows CAMPAIGN 1995


With two days to go until Baltimore's mayoral primary, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has a 4-point lead over rival Mary Pat Clarke, according to a new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research for The Sun and WMAR-TV Channel 2.

"It's a very close, competitive race," said J. Bradford Coker, president of Mason-Dixon.

Mr. Coker and Matthew A. Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University, agreed that the key to Tuesday's election likely would be the ability of the candidates to mobilize their supporters.

"What's going to count is turnout," Mr. Crenson said. "The candidate who gets his vote to the poll wins."

The poll of 620 likely voters in Tuesday's Democratic primary shows Mr. Schmoke with 47 percent of the vote and Mrs. Clarke with 43 percent. Kelley C. Brohawn, a water-taxi driver, has 1 percent of the vote, and 9 percent are undecided.

The telephone poll, taken Thursday and Friday, chose respondents at random and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

A month ago, Mr. Schmoke, who is seeking a third term, had 43 percent of the vote, compared with 37 percent for the two-term council president, with 20 percent undecided.

Last month's poll sampled 435 voters and had a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points. The current poll has a larger sample and thus a lower margin of error.

The survey shows encouraging signs for Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke, analysts said.

Mr. Schmoke has slowed the midsummer surge by Mrs. Clarke that has seen her slice his 15-percentage point lead by 60 percent between mid-July and mid-August. But the council president has kept the mayor below the 50-percent support level, a signal of continued vulnerability, analysts said.

Both candidates drew sustenance from the survey for the

campaign's final hours.

"I feel good. It feels as though we have the momentum here, that people are coming together on wanting change," Mrs. Clarke said.

"It means I'm going to win. Every poll I've seen indicates I'm ahead," Mr. Schmoke said.

Baltimore voters are continuing to divide along racial lines, according to the Mason-Dixon poll.

Mr. Schmoke had 74 percent of the black vote but just 14 percent of the white vote, the poll showed. Mrs. Clarke's numbers were almost opposite: 78 percent of the white vote but just 14 percent of the black vote. Eleven percent of black voters and seven percent of white voters were undecided, according to the poll.

In last month's survey, the mayor had 65 percent of the black vote and 15 percent of the white vote, while the council president had 61 percent of the white vote and 18 percent of the black vote. About a quarter of whites and 17 percent of blacks were undecided then, that survey showed. The poll also showed leveling off of the percentage of voters with an unfavorable impression of Mr. Schmoke, and an increase in the percentage of voters with a negative image of Mrs. Clarke.

Mr. Schmoke had a 29-percent unfavorable name recognition among voters, the same percentage as in mid-August. But Mrs. Clarke's unfavorable name recognition increased to 22 percent from 12 percent a month ago. In mid-July, the mayor had a 19-percent unfavorable rating, compared with a 14-percent rating for the council president.

Mrs. Clarke criticized the mayor's record in television ads that aired early last month, and Mr. Schmoke responded by attacking what the council president has and has not done in his more recent TV spots.

Nearly one in five voters surveyed -- 19 percent -- said they had changed their minds during the summer about who they were supporting for mayor.

A slight majority of those surveyed -- 53 percent -- said Mr. Schmoke has made progress in improving the city during the past eight years. An almost equal number -- 54 percent -- said Mrs. Clarke is a "doer."

During the campaign, the mayor has acknowledged that Baltimore has serious problems, but has said the city's strengths outweigh its weaknesses and that he has taken major steps to address the ills. The council president, meanwhile, has said she would bring to the mayor's office the skills she has exhibited during her council tenure in solving such community concerns as clearing alleys of trash.

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of those surveyed said they did not hold Mr. Schmoke responsible for Baltimore's loss of jobs, rise in crime and low school attendance -- problems Mrs. Clarke has highlighted throughout her campaign. However, half of those surveyed said the mayor is aware of the city's problems but is too slow to act.

Two out of five voters said they believed Mrs. Clarke has proposed solutions to the city's problems during her 16 years on the council -- eight as president and eight as a 2nd District councilwoman. About one in three voters said she has not, and one in four said they were not sure. The mayor has said that the council president continually has described the city's woes, but has not come up with ways to deal with them.

An overwhelming number of those polled -- about four out of five -- said endorsements by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and The Sun would have no effect on their vote.

Mr. Glendening is backing Mr. Schmoke, while The Sun's editorial board has endorsed Mrs. Clarke.

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