On the day after she lost in a landslide to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Mary Pat Clarke put up her feet for the first time in 88 days, savored the stillness at home and talked about leaving political life to study religion.
Mrs. Clarke, the City Council president who campaigned dawn-to-dusk all summer in her unsuccessful bid to unseat Mr. Schmoke, surprised even longtime supporters by announcing after her concession speech Tuesday night that she wants to enter divinity school.
Relaxing at her brick rowhouse in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood, Mrs. Clarke, 54, explained yesterday that she is not entering the ministry but has long wanted to undertake theological studies.
She intends to enroll in classes at St. Mary's Seminary and the Hebrew University at the conclusion of the council session in December, possibly toward a master's degree.
"For a long time now, I have wanted the opportunity to do some serious studies in theology," she said. "My involvement in this city, and seeing the variety of deep religious beliefs just led me to want to understand more."
Mrs. Clarke, who is Catholic, says she became interested in other religions while visiting churches of every denomination in Baltimore during her 16 years on the council, the last eight as its president.
While acknowledging that she was tired and disappointed after her hard defeat in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Mrs. Clarke said she is ready to retire and let the next generation step to the podium.
She spoke warmly of her likely successor, Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, a political ally who prevailed in a tight five-way race. "I'm very pleased because he will be a strong president. He's very strong on public safety, he will be vigilant and he represents the leadership of the next generation," she said.
Mrs. Clarke, who relentlessly criticized Mr. Schmoke for failing to pull Baltimore out of its decline, said she hoped her campaign at least restored a sense of urgency to combating the stubborn problems of crime, job loss and low school achievement.
"I hope this effort somehow helped to create an agenda for
Baltimore City that we take decisive steps to curb violence and crime in our neighborhoods and truly safeguard our children," she said.
During her council career, she built a reputation as a quintessential pothole politician, resolving constituent complaints about basic services and championing community causes. Often, she worked 16 hours a day, racing from one neighborhood meeting to the next, tramping through alleys to check on abandoned cars and broken lights, prodding the bureaucracy into action.
It was work she enjoyed -- and will miss.
"Being an elected official is an invitation to be part of everyone's life, and it is something I will miss, but I have no interest in trying again," she said.