Baltimore voters cast their ballots yesterday with an eye toward transforming the face of the City Council by putting new people in at least a third of its seats.
A large turnover was a given after four members -- Lawrence A. Bell III, Vera P. Hall, Joseph J. DiBlasi and Carl Stokes -- decided to forgo re-election to run for the council president's seat being vacated by Mary Pat Clarke. Two other council members, Iris Reeves and Martin E. "Mike" Curran, decided to retire.
Although there were 11 candidates who ran unopposed in yesterday's Republican primary, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to election in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
Constituents in the 1st District, with its mostly white, blue-collar neighborhoods that straddle the Inner Harbor and continue into Northeast Baltimore, voiced complaints of shabby recreation centers, declining schools and creeping drug traffic on their borders. The incumbents charged that the Schmoke administration had turned its back on their district.
But some of the eight Democratic challengers said the constant feuding between councilmen John L. Cain and Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. was to blame. Along with Lois A. Garey, who was appointed to her seat in February, they tempted the wrath of independent-minded voters.
With nearly a quarter of the ballots counted last night, Charles VTC Krysiak, the son of a state legislator, was giving the three incumbents a strong challenge.
Voters in the 2nd District, which stretches from the housing projects bordering West Baltimore to the mansions of Guilford, have been jittery lately: The decrepit Lafayette Courts projects were demolished, Bolton Hill residents rallied against crime and Charles Villagers agreed to pay an extra tax for security patrols and street cleaning.
With so much voter frustration evident, challengers ran on an anti-incumbent platform and railed against inaction by City Hall. Mr. Stokes opted not to run for a seat that almost certainly would have been his. Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch, criticized for her poor attendance record at council meetings, was considered vulnerable. But Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge -- a champion of gay rights and a game street-level campaigner with more money than anyone else in the race -- appeared to be headed for a fifth term.
The question in the majority-black 3rd District, which includes neighborhoods from Northwood into northeast sections such as Hamilton and Belair-Edison, was whether residents would elect their first black representative.
During the 1991 redistricting, the district switched from majority-white to majority-black. But in the election that year, all three winners -- Mr. Curran, Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham and newcomer Martin O'Malley -- were white.
Four years later, only Mr. O'Malley's seat appeared safe. Mr. Cunningham, who is closely linked to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, was considered vulnerable. Although Mr. Curran is retiring, there was still a Curran in the race: his brother Robert, using the same signs his sibling had.
In the 4th District, two council veterans faced challenges from a "brat pack" of four politically inexperienced candidates under the age of 30.
The incumbents, Agnes Welch and Sheila Dixon, emphasized their experience and pledged to fight crime within the structure of existing laws. A third seat was left open by Mr. Bell's departure.
With nearly 20 percent of the vote counted, Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., 27, whose family members have served in Congress, the state legislature and the council, was running in third place behind the two incumbents.
The 5th District had been dominated for eight years by the team of Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Reeves and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector in the northwest section of the city, which is largely African-American with a solid Jewish population.
But with Mrs. Hall running for council president and Mrs. Reeves retiring, Mrs. Spector had to field a new team and fend off a slew of challengers. She formed a ticket with Stephanie C. Rawlings, the 25-year-old daughter of state Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, and Harry E. Smith, an activist hand-picked by state Sen. Clarence W. Blount.
With Mr. DiBlasi giving up his seat in the 6th District, Melvin Stukes was left as the lone elected incumbent. The Rev. Norman A. Handy Sr. was appointed this year to fill a vacancy created when Timothy D. Murphy was elected to the House of Delegates. Mr. Stukes' election in 1991 bumped then-incumbent Edward L. Reisinger, who last night was making a bid to regain a seat to which he was appointed in 1990.
With about a quarter of the vote counted, Mr. Reisinger led all candidates.