Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and rival Mary Pat Clarke put in a full day of campaigning yesterday, crisscrossing Baltimore to attend church services and community events and appearing briefly together at a groundbreaking for a senior citizen housing project.
In the waning hours before tomorrow's Democratic primary, Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke, his opponent in the hard-fought mayoral race, made last-minute, low-key appeals to voters.
Mr. Schmoke, bidding for a third term, autographed programs and sang hymns at Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore and the First Apostolic Faith Institutional Church in East Baltimore.
Mrs. Clarke, the City Council president who is trailing him by 4 percentage points in the latest poll, clapped along with parishioners at the First United Church Apostolic and Word Alive Worship Center on the west side and cheered on supporters at a crab feast and bull roast.
Both candidates showed up for a ceremony to mark the beginning of a $3.4 million project to transform a historic mansion in Northeast Baltimore into apartments for the elderly. Donning straw hats with red, white and blue bunting, they shook hands but avoided any direct mention of the election in their speeches.
Both were equally upbeat about the closely competitive race that has drawn national attention.
"It's coming together nicely," Mr. Schmoke said of his campaign. "It's all about turnout and organization, and we do that as well as anyone."
"I feel good, and it feels that way on the streets and in the neighborhoods," Mrs. Clarke said. "We've just taken this one step at a time."
At Enon Baptist in Harlem Park, Mr. Schmoke, 45, drew warm applause when he was introduced from the pulpit midway through the service.
"Everyone by now knows of my support for the mayor," said the Rev. Arnold W. Howard, pastor of the church and head of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which is backing Mr. Schmoke. "This is a very important time in this city's life."
Mr. Schmoke encouraged the congregants to go to the polls.
"We won't talk politics here in the House of the Lord. But we will say it's incredibly important for everyone to come out and vote," the mayor said.
At First Apostolic near Johns Hopkins Hospital, the mayor was less circumspect.
"We've got our eyes on the prize. We know what we're working for," he said at the end of the regular service.
Mr. Schmoke got an ovation when he mentioned the recent demolition of the decrepit Lafayette Courts public housing high-rises and the plans to replace them with townhouses, and said he wanted another term to work with communities on the stubborn problems of drugs, teen pregnancy and vacant houses.
"So many problems we face are problems of the spirit," he said.
Bishop Cornelius Showell asked the congregation to spread the word about the election.
"The message you heard you've got to give to every person you see," he said. "Everyone that can vote needs to get out and vote."
Mrs. Clarke, 54, dressed in a red suit that fit her campaign colors, raced across the city to attend four church services yesterday morning.
At First United Church Apostolic on Baltimore National Pike, she hugged worshipers and clapped and swayed to the rousing music. At Word Alive Worship Center on North Hilton Street, she joined the congregation of more than 400 in chanting refrains and gave a council citation to the minister, the Rev. Sandra Hayden, in honor of her ninth pastoral anniversary.
A guest minister, leading the congregation on with questions answered in a one-word refrain of "now," glanced briefly at Mrs. Clarke and said, "She wants your votes." As churchgoers called out "now," Mrs. Clarke laughed and gave a quick wave.
Her afternoon was equally hectic. Mrs. Clarke went from one table to the next at a bull roast held in her honor by firefighters and police officers in South Baltimore. She had the same determined smile and energetic greeting while making the rounds at the annual crab feast of the Baltimore Homeowners' Coalition for Fair Property Taxes.
"Give a big clap to a real fighter," Daniel J. Loden, the group's president, said in introducing her to the crowd of people picking crab meat and drinking beer. "I have no illusion that being mayor isn't a difficult job, but she's proven that she's responsive. She has the vitality to do it."
Mrs. Clarke encouraged everyone to vote and thanked the homeowners' organization for endorsing her. "I appreciate that this organization took a stand at a time when it was really a long-shot," she said.